How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

The embattled Zumwalt-class destroyers still don’t have any ammunition, but the US Navy has an idea, or at least the beginnings of an idea.

The Navy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade into railgun research, which has run up against several technological roadblocks. But while the railgun may not turn out to be a worthwhile project, the railgun rounds seem to show promise.


The Navy fired nearly two dozen hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) — special rounds initially designed for electromagnetic railguns — from the Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey at one point during 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, USNI News first reported. The guns are the same 40-year-old guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) fires its Mk 45 5-inch gun.

(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Matt Bodenner)

The same concept could presumably be applied to the 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers. “That is one thing that has been considered with respect to capability for this ship class. We’re looking at a longer-range bullet that’s affordable, and so that’s one thing that’s being considered,” Capt. Kevin Smith, a program manager for the Zumwalt, revealed at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, USNI News reported Jan. 22, 2019.

“The surface Navy is really excited about this capability,” he added, saying that nothing has been decided.

This is apparently only one of several possibilities. “There are a lot of things that we’re looking at as far as deeper magazines with other types of weapons that have longer range,” Smith said. Previous considerations have included the Raytheon Excalibur 155 mm guided artillery, but that plan was abandoned.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).

(U.S. Navy photo)

The Zumwalt’s 155 mm AGS guns, intended to strike targets farther than 80 miles away, are ridiculously expensive to fire — a single Long Range Land Attack Projectile costs almost id=”listicle-2626896386″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.

Since then, the Navy has been looking hard at other alternatives.

The Navy “will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future,” Vice Adm. William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee in November 2018, Breaking Defense reported at the time.

So, if the Navy can’t find suitable ammunition for the stealth destroyers, it may end up scrapping the guns altogether to be replaced with something else down the road.

Despite repeated setbacks, which include everything from loss of stealth to engine and electrical problems, the Navy said “the ship is doing fine.” Merz told Congress that the vessel should be operational by 2021.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

5 nuclear apocalypse tips from Fallout that are actually useful

One of the most entertaining video game franchises to make waves in last decade has got to be Fallout. It’s a quirky take on the nuclear apocalypse that shows us a world in which the 1950s marked the last cultural shift before the world’s end. Each game leaves the player to survive in nuclear-wasteland versions of formerly beautiful locales, like Washington D.C., Las Vegas, and Boston.

The game’s critical acclaim is largely due to the fun, engaging gameplay mechanics, but the game developers did their homework to make sure the objectives and the little details required by enduring the aftermath of the “Great War” are actually legitimate pieces of nuclear-apocalypse survival advice.


Should you ever awaken in a fallout shelter only to emerge and see naught but hellish landscape, you can actually use some of the things you learned while gaming.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

It couldn’t hurt to start saving bottle caps now. If the apocalypse doesn’t happen, you can still use them for art… or something.

(Know Your Meme)

Currency will change

Instead of using regular greenbacks as you would in the normal world, bottle caps are the new, post-apocalyptic currency. The in-game reason given is that the caps on Nuka-Cola bottles were plenty and there’s no way to accurately recreate them. So, everyone essentially agreed that they had intrinsic value.

That’s actually the exact way our real-life monetary system works. Shy of the copper found in older pennies, the money we use today only has value because we all agree it has value. Without a Federal Reserve to enforce that value, people in a post-apocalyptic world may use something else, like bullets, gold, or maybe even bottle caps.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

You don’t have to go as far as to clean ALL the water — just enough to survive.

(Bethesda Game Studios)

Find clean water

The main objective of Fallout 3 is to establish a clean water system for the city of Washington D.C. because most sources have become highly contaminated. Throughout the game, you seldom find purified water. For the most part, you’re going to poison yourself (to a degree) trying to stay hydrated.

If there’s any advice that all survivalists can agree on it’s that everyone’s first goal should be to find drinkable, poison- and nuclear-contamination-free water. Your body can only survive a few days without it, but you won’t be able to function properly in a high-stakes environment for more than a day.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Mutated rabbit… yum…

(Bethesda Game Studios)

Food packaged before the apocalypse is best

A quick and easy way to heal in the game is by eating food. Everyone needs food to survive and the extra calories gives you the edge you need to fight off mutated freaks. You can eat whatever you want (and even endeavor in cannibalism if you feel the urge), but the most efficient food is stuff from before the apocalypse.

For very obvious reasons, you don’t want to be eating poison. Finding clean food isn’t all that difficult if you know where to look. Sealed environments, like the game’s “vaults,” are often veritable supermarkets, but even packaged food that was deep underwater before the blasts went off have been proven to be clean. Just look at the wine bottles from shipwrecks, for instance.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

It doesn’t need to be as fancy as a Pip-Boy but you can find one at most universities.

(Bethesda Game Studios)

Get a Geiger counter

Like other games, you’ll be reminded of several factors: your health points, any injuries sustained, how much ammo you have, etc. It will also tell you about the radiations levels of anywhere you’re going.

Nuclear radiation doesn’t exactly glow as pop culture would have you believe. Unassisted, it’s impossible to detect. The only way you’re going to know for sure that you’re not being irradiated is by using a Geiger counter.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

What is it with lawless societies and their affinity with wearing spikes? I can’t imagine that’d be comfortable at all.

(Bethesda Game Studios)

Not all survivors are friendly

Because it’s still a fun action game, enemies are plenty. Irradiated beasts, mutant freaks, roaming hordes of bandits, and, of course, just regular survivors looking to protect what’s theirs.

Think about how brutal some people towards each other during Black Friday. If people are willing to maim and kill each other to take 25 percent off of a toy’s price tag, imagine what they’d do in a world where laws no longer exist and they need to make sure their children survive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says ending Korean war games is good for the US

President Donald Trump continued to hype the results of his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June12, 2018, by framing a massive concession he made as savings for the US military.

“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweet frames the US suspending war games, seen as a massive win for both China and North Korea in the negotiations, as a thrifty move from the US.


While the military is a huge expenditure for the US, and military drills are costly, their financial cost is comparatively minor compared to the diplomatic bargaining chip they represented.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane)

But military drills do more than cost money, they keep the US troops and South Korea safe and ready for combat.

Without military drills, the US forces in South Korea would wither and fail to meet readiness standards. Also, by letting North Korea dictate what the US military does, Trump sends the US down a slippery slope.

If North Korea’s input into US military decisions keeps up, the entire rationale for US forces in South Korea could be quickly undermined, leaving a gap China would likely fill to displace the US as the region’s dominant power.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How robots and drones might be used in future wars

The U.S. Army loves robots and wants its soldiers to love them, too. The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command recently conducted its annual Joint Warfighting Assessment in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the testing at the Yakima Training Center. From late April to May 11, 2019, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2-2 Stryker Brigade and 2nd Ranger battalion, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton, tested new weapon concepts for a Pacific war scenario set in 2028.

One of the concepts they were testing was the “optionally manned vehicle,” which would allow leaders in the field to decide to switch their systems to remote operating systems instead of putting their troops on the line.


“The idea is that the robotics could be available, so when they pick that platform you can put the robotics on it, and now you can do the manned (or) unmanned team and push the robotics out on the battlefield,” explained Lieutenant Colonel John Fursmo, the officer commanding the opposing force for the exercise.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

The Assault Breacher Vehicle.

(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)

Some of the vehicles that have been brought out for testing are actually quite old, brought back to life and stuffed with robotic capabilities by engineers tinkering with them like Frankenstein’s monster. Troops and engineers explain that it’s all about testing, experimentation and soldier feedback. “These are concepts, these are not necessarily the pieces of equipment we would actually use,” said Fursmo. “The Army still has to decide what it wants for this new combat vehicle that will replace some tanks and other armored vehicles.”

Fursmo pointed to an old M58 mobile recon vehicle that’s been retrofitted with remote control capabilities. “It’s a tracked vehicle, it’s been in the Army a very long time, [and] essentially the Army stopped using it several years ago because the mission itself was so dangerous that it was just decided it wasn’t worth it,” he explained. “But make it a robot and now it’s at least conceptually worth looking at it again.”

Robotics and digital tech are already changing the way wars both big and small are being fought around the world every day. What were once science fiction dreams (or nightmares) aren’t as far away as some might think. Some are already here.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

An experimental quadcopter mounted on a Stryker during JWA 19.

(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)

Eyes in the Sky

Cavalry scouts often call themselves the ninjas of the U.S. Army. Though considered combat troops, their job is more often to scope out the enemy without drawing fire and to report their findings. “A big problem we have is seeing without being seen,” explained Major Dave Scherke, a cav scout squadron leader with the 2-2 Stryker Brigade.

A scout team might move with three troops aboard a Stryker and three dismounted on the ground. They use maps, rulers, and measuring tape to take down mission critical information while conducting route reconnaissance. “It’s very time consuming and, from a security standpoint, can leave you exposed,” Scherken said.

However, at Yakima Training Center, Scherke’s men have been testing the Sensor Enabled Scout Platoon concept. They’ve tested the “Instant Eye” quad copter, an aerial drone surveillance system. “We have that all the way down to the squad level. So instead of just having one of these for each one of my cav troops, now I have six of them, and that massively increases our ability to see over the ridge and see the enemy first,” Scherke explained.

The quad copter itself isn’t particularly unique — you can buy similar models at Best Buy. Drones have already become part of the new normal for warfare. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants have used store-bought drones to help them target mortars and have even modified them to drop grenades and other improvised explosives. During the battle of Mosul, frustrated Iraqi troops started purchasing commercial drones of their own to fight ISIS. Robots are everywhere.

However, the small drones the scouts are testing are equipped with the Instrument Set Reconnaissance and Survey (ENFIRE) system that uses software and algorithms that can help measure terrain features, roads, and even calculate how much weight a bridge is capable of supporting. “There’s a bridge classification app that tells you the whole bridge classification,” said Colonel Chuck Roede, the deputy commander of JMC. “It really allows the scouts to do the job we expect them to do.”

ENFIRE connects directly to systems in the Stryker itself, which connects to a larger network. “It takes all that information, aggregates it into a computer, and creates a route overlay,” Scherke explained. “[Plugging] into our mission command systems to send very rapidly [means] our logistics planners and our other maneuver planners can get that information right away. So it speeds up what our scouts can do, and now instead of having six scouts on the ground just doing this while other guys are securing them, you can put fewer scouts on the ground to do that mission.”

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Deep purple, the drone utilized by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, prepares to lift off on an NBC reconnaissance mission at the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 training exercise at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, April 29, 2019.

(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)

The Instant Eye has night vision, infrared, and powerful zoom and camera clarity features for checking out targets, as well as signal tracking. “We can get some eyes on there without exposing our scouts and then bring indirect fires down to win that fight first because we want to be fighting an unfair fight,” said Scherke.

Cav scout Sergeant Joseph Gaska, who was in the field operating the prototype, told Coffee or Die that he was impressed with it. “As long as you’re high enough, you won’t hear it, so it’s not going to be that buzzing sound above your head,” he said of small, nimble drones’ ability to move nearly undetected. It has other ambitious features, too, Gaska noted. For instance, he said that if they were to somehow lose their connection to the drone, it’s programmed to remember where its handlers are and will return to them.

The Joint Warfighting Assessment JWA19 WA, UNITED STATES 04.28.2019

www.youtube.com

Machines Doing The Dirty Work

One of the most difficult things ground troops are asked to do is breaching operations against enemy strongholds. The defending side nearly always has the advantage. Good defenders lay out layers of defense that can include walls, barbed wire, ditches, minefields, and countless other hazards and traps. “It’s a very challenging task because you have to imagine your opponent on the far side of that position ready to destroy you with every weapon system that they have,” Fursmo said. “If you can take humans out of that, you’re going to have fewer casualties — it’s really the most dangerous thing a ground force does.”

Troops in the field trained with various aerial drones for detecting chemical threats and minefields, but more of the efforts focused on ground-based systems. One of the key systems they were testing was the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Their ABV working prototype was built around the hull of an M1A1 Abrams tank armed with mine charges and a .50-caliber machine gun and equipped with plows and dozer blades.

“Basically, the concept of this vehicle is that this one vehicle with two operators can do what an entire platoon of engineers would be required to do in a breach,” U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Aghakhan explained. “It’s not taking anything away from my capabilities — I can still manually operate it — but it gives me the option of saying ‘I don’t want to expose my Marines in this obstacle belt because it’s too dangerous,’ and I can pull them out and we can robotically operate it.”

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

A soldier remotely operates a humvee from inside another humvee.

(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)

Working from remote controls in command vehicles, soldiers and Marines could also remotely control other vehicles to move in and provide suppressing fire for the ABV as it worked to clear mines, smash berms, and deal with other obstacles. Captain Nicole Rotte, an Afghanistan veteran and commander of the 2-2’s engineer company, said that she was impressed with it.

“The challenge that I have is my planning factor for moving through a breach is 50 percent loss,” said Rotte. “So all these concepts, to be able to take an unmanned vehicle and bring them down the battlefield, to be able save soldiers from being lost in the breach, that’s awesome for me.”

Rotte said they only had minor technical issues that were easily solved by turning the systems off and on again. She added that if anything, she’s excited for the prospect of having more robots available to her and seeing what they can do.

Unmanning the Battlefield?

Some futurists have envisioned a world in which war was waged entirely by robots. The U.S. military and CIA have already used drones with operators in Nevada pulling the trigger to kill enemies as far away as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. However, while the vehicles are referred to as “unmanned,” they require regular maintenance — and usually have a human operator somewhere.

At times, U.S. military commanders have underestimated the strain on personnel in regard to upkeep and the long hours of operation. “The explosion in demand had created a snowball effect that never allowed the […] staff to take a pause and say, ‘Let’s normalize all the processes that we should be doing,'” the Air Force reported in one of its official annual histories from 2012. “Instead, normalization was put off to some future date after the pace of combat operations slowed down.”

But the wars continued, as did the extreme hours. Airmen working six days a week were constantly asked to work extra hours while leave got cancelled. They were never “deployed” but remained almost constantly on duty, remotely fighting wars in several countries that were continents away. “It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior Air Force official told The Daily Beast in 2015. “What’s different now is that the Band-Aid fixes are no longer working.”

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

A remotely operated humvee with a robotic firing turret.

(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)

Even without the logistical hurdles, many commanders (even those that fully embrace a robotic future for war) don’t believe grunts will ever become obsolete. “It’s technologically feasible to fly a drone from Nevada and have it circling over Iraq or Afghanistan. But the demands of the terrain, as Army soldiers we are so tied to the terrain — you need to have leaders on the ground to see and understand the terrain,” Roede said.

Col. Christopher Barnwell, head of the field experimentation division at JMC, said that while he could see a future where commanders could run a war without ever going to the field — adding that at this point communications are advanced enough that senior officers already don’t have to — he doesn’t think a good leader would choose to stay home while war is raging elsewhere.

“No commander I know would do that,” he said. “I feel like I need to be on the ground and see things with my own eyes and get a feel for what’s going. Technically possible? Yes. Likely? I don’t personally think so.”

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

An Alabama Army National Guard Soldier with the 690th Chemical Company inspects a “deep purple” drone at YTC at Joint Warfighting Assessment 19, May 4, 2019.

(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/ 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)

Battle Bots

While they don’t see human judgement being removed from the equation, some military planners are excited by the prospect of artificial intelligence to allow vehicles to move on their own on the battlefield.

“As the concept matures, as we bring in elements of AI, as we bring in some measures of autonomy, the ratio of operators to vehicles will drop so that eventually you’ll have one operator who can control maybe a squad or platoon’s worth of vehicles,” said Roede. He suggested that AI could allow vehicles to autonomously navigate terrain and even rally into formations as they haul supplies and weapons.

Barnwell suggested it potentially going even further — he can foresee a day in the future when leaders can delegate to robotic weapons systems in combat and allow them to autonomously pick and engage targets.

“You tell these robotic vehicles, ‘You’ve got this part of the engagement area, and you are free to shoot at enemy vehicles; anything north of the niner-niner grid line is enemy and you are free to shoot it,'” Barnwell said. “And because these vehicles have AI, they know what to shoot […] on their own.”

However, the prospect of robots that can autonomously kill enemies based on algorithms or pre-programmed targets sets has potentially serious ramifications. The recent battles for Mosul and Raqqa proved incredibly bloody. House-to-house fighting and heavy bombing and artillery strikes led to untold deaths of civilians trapped in the cities, and the work of rebuilding the infrastructure since the battles ended has been slow.

Military strategists believe that urban fighting could be the norm for the 21st century. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that’s expected to grow. In particular, there are concerns about the challenges posed by potentially fighting in massive megacities like Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, or Lagos. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has pointed out that the entirety of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — isn’t equal to a neighborhood in Seoul.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Conceptual prototypes at Yakima Training Center.

(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)

Heavily armed robots combing the streets of a densely populated megacity picking targets based on algorithms have the potential to cause a lot of unintended collateral death and destruction. Machines feel neither remorse nor pity.

Barnwell said that they’re already considering these potential problems. “Through programming, we would be able to figure out what are appropriate targets, what are not. What is the ROE (rules of engagement), what are we going to allow these things to shoot at by themselves, and what are we not going to allow them to shoot at by themselves,” he explained. “In a megacity, for example, we may not even employ this sort of thing — or we may, depending on what the intelligence tells us the enemy is out there.”

But Roede stressed again that fighting wars is going to remain a fundamentally human endeavor, adding, “I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where we’ll let the machine make the final decision on anything.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did acting SECDEF just throw shade at the F-35?

Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan took a swipe at the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in a off-camera briefing at the Pentagon Jan. 29, 2019.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been accused of bias toward his former company, which lost the bid for the development of a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet to competitor Lockheed Martin.

“Am I still wearing a Boeing hat? I think that’s just noise,” the acting secretary said Jan. 29, 2019, responding to the allegations. But, then he took a thinly-veiled jab at the F-35.


“I’m biased towards performance. I am biased toward giving taxpayers their money’s worth. The F-35 unequivocally, I can say, has a lot of opportunity for more performance,” he explained, possibly suggesting that the aircraft is not quite where it needs to be.

Shanahan has signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from participating in matters pertaining to Boeing, a major US defense contractor.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

An F-35 Lightning II performs aerial maneuvers during a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base Nov. 19, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class James Kennedy)

His latest comments on the fighter, which were relatively diplomatic, are nothing compared to what he reportedly said in private meetings while serving as the deputy secretary of defense.

A former senior Defense Department official recently told Politico that Shanahan has described the F-35 as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” that same former official recalled Shanahan saying, according to Politico.

Lockheed beat out Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter competition around the turn of the century, with the Department of Defense ultimately picking Lockheed’s X-35 — which later became the F-35 — over Boeing’s X-32 in 2001.

During its development, the F-35, a costly project which could cost more than id=”listicle-2627524757″ trillion over the course of its lifetime, has faced constant criticism for a variety of problems. The F-35 is generally considered the most expensive weapons program in US history.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“The F-35 is our future,” he said in September 2018 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space Cyber Conference.

“I think we can all agree that it is a remarkable aircraft, with eye-watering capabilities critical to the high-end fight,” he added. “I tip my hat to its broad team of government, industry, and international partners. Having worked on programs of similar size and complexity, I have enormous respect for your talent and commitment.”

Despite these decidedly kind words, his comments Jan 29, 2019, seem to suggest that the F-35 has left a lot to be desired.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

One of the less-exciting participants in Saber Strike 2018 is actually one of the most important strategic elements of the United States: the Maritime Prepositioning Force. Recently, the ships in this force helped conduct multi-national training exercises in Eastern Europe.

The ships that make up this force might not look like much. They’re devoid of firepower and they’re slow (at least when compared to littoral combat ships or destroyers). They rarely deploy from their bases and they’re certainly not winning any beauty pageants any time soon. And yet, these are some of the most vital ships when it comes to giving America a strategic position in conflict.

That’s because these ships facilitate the rapid deployment of troops.


How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

USNS William B. Baugh (T-AK 3001) in 2008, the lead ship of the first class of maritime prepositioning ships purchased in the 1980s.

(Photo by Jack Workman)

The whole idea came about in the 1970s. The United States had just seen the Ayatollah Khomeni take over Iran — and needed to rapidly respond to the crisis. The British had a small territory in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia. It wasn’t an ideal launching point, but it had to do. So, the United States set up a squadron of these ships, loaded up with gear for a rapidly-deployable force, in response.

In the 1980s, this concept was expanded to include three Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons. One was stationed at Diego Garcia, another in the Mediterranean Sea, and a third in the Marianas. Each could support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade for 30 days. That would buy time enough for heavier forces to arrive — or for the bad guys to reconsider their position.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

A HMMWV offloads from a maritime prepositioning ship during Saber Strike 2018. These ships carry gear and supplies to support Marine units.

(DOD photo by Cpl. Anthoney Moore)

The MPF was used in practice in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s regime invaded Kuwait. The United States sent the Division Ready Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade — backed up by two carriers — to draw the famous “line in the sand.” The US was able to deploy so quickly by using the Maritime Prepositioning Squadron based at Diego Garcia. By quickly delivering a force to the theater, Saddam was deterred from going any further as the bulk of American forces arrived.

Today, two of those squadrons remain — one in the Marianas and the other at Diego Garcia — but both remain crucial strategic elements. In essence, they serve as a deterrent — international would-be thugs know that if they misbehave, they’ll have 15,000 very angry Marines paying them a visit very promptly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier searched for peace and balance after his deployment

Jeff Slater was an Army small weapons expert who served in Iraq. He later volunteered for route clearance duty where his job was to intentionally run over IEDs.


On his return home, Slater struggled with depression and feelings of isolation. But he stayed focused on the goal of finding his own enlightenment.

Slater has many striking tattoos, including one on his chest of a hand grenade with wings and the word “Serenity” above it.

“I see the world as a balance between beauty and hate,” Slater says. “Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm. It’s finding peace amidst the storm.”

Slater’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty.  The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

Articles

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
Lockheed Martin


America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag.

The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.

Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.

In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
Lockheed Martin

The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.

As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.

“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
US Air Force

One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.

Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”

According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
US Air Force

The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.

Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.

The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
Lockheed Martin

Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.

The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.

IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.

Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.

The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.

Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
Lockheed Martin

Here’s the full report from the Department of Defense

MIGHTY HISTORY

Air Force General remembers being shot down and rescued

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein has a direct answer when asked what echoes to this day, what continues to influence his thinking and actions even now, 20 years after he found himself on the ground in hostile surroundings, his F-16 Fighting Falcon in the distance smoldering and destroyed.

“Where it echoes most for me is trying to lead with character,” Goldfein said May 7, 2019. “When I talk to young commanders I tell them, ‘As an officer, we never know when some young airman will risk everything to save our lives, to pull us out of bad-guy land, to pull us out of a burning vehicle. They risk everything they hold dear and their families hold dear to save us.’


“And the question at that moment is, am I worthy of their risk?”

For Goldfein, of course, the question and his answer are both meaningful and literal. It is especially potent this month, which marks the 20th anniversary of his shoot-down and rescue during a mission over Serbia.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The facts of that incident are well known. Goldfein was a squadron commander for the May 2, 1999 mission to find and destroy anti-aircraft batteries. The mission was part of Operation Allied Force, which was NATO’s response to Serbian attacks on Kosovar Albanians that had risen to an ethnic cleansing. The 78-day air campaign ultimately convinced Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate.

Getting to that point, however, was difficult and dangerous. Air power made the difference.

While officially a NATO campaign with many participants and facets, the U.S. Air Force played a prominent role, flying 30,018 sorties and striking 421 fixed targets.

It was a defining moment for the Air Force in several ways. It validated the air expeditionary force concept; it was the first time a B-2 stealth bomber was used in combat and the first significant use of what today are referred to as drone aircraft.

And for Goldfein, it was a life-shaping event that forced him to eject into a moonlit night, test his training and forge a unique command outlook.

It triggered a tight bond with pararescuemen Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, Senior Airman Ron Ellis and Staff Sgt. Andy Kubik, a combat controller. All three bolted from a MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and ran toward Goldfein as he emerged from a row of trees and brought him home safely, eluding vigorous gunfire on the way out.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

A MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

For Goldfein, the memory and the lessons from that night endure.

He remembers how the training he received 20 years before that night on the proper way to safely eject, parachute to earth and evade capture, returned clearly and instantly when needed.

“What I found that was amazing in looking back was how little I had to recall,” he said, reciting the stern admonitions of his instructors for a successful “parachute landing fall” – “knees together, don’t look down, roll like a football!”

There also was something more profound that only someone who’s been shot down and rescued can fully understand.

“I wear these stars every day for somebody else,” Goldfein said. “I wear them for some young airmen who risked everything and did a great job that night. So every day you get to serve is a day to pay it forward.”

It also forces him to return to the question, am I worth it?

“The answer is, God, I hope so,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US submarine maintains ‘readiness and lethality’ after time in ‘limbo’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019, praising the crew for maintaining “readiness and lethality,” even though the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine completed its most recent deployment in 2015.

The Boise has been in limbo, awaiting repairs amid a Navy-wide backlog that has sent subs, including the Boise, to private docks for repair, driving up costs.

The Boise is currently at Naval Station Norfolk, according to the Daily Press, and awaiting repair at Newport News Shipbuilders.

Read on to learn more about Esper’s visit to the Boise.


How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the USS Boise.

(Department of Defense)

Esper came to Virginia to discuss the problem of Navy suicides.

Esper visited the Boise during a trip to Norfolk, where three Navy sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have died by suicide in the past two weeks.

“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent future further suicides in the armed services,” Esper told sailors. “We don’t.”

This year, suicides in the armed services have garnered significant attention, with the Air Force calling a one-day operational stand-down in August 2019 to address the number of suicides in its ranks.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Defense Secretary Mark Esper tours the USS Boise, Sept. 25, 2019.

(Department of Defense)

While at Norfolk, Esper took a tour of the USS Boise.

The submarine Esper praised for its readiness has been out of action for four years and lost its certification to perform unrestricted operations in June 2016 as it awaited repairs, according to Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jodie Cornell.

“The Boise has been waiting for repairs since its last deployment ended in 2015, and become the poster child for problems w/ Navy maintenance,” journalist Paul McLeary tweeted Sept. 25, 2019.

The Boise and two other Los Angeles-class submarines have long awaited repairs that the Navy doesn’t have the capacity to perform, so the service has contracted the labor to private shipyards.

Cornell told Insider that the Boise could go into repairs in spring 2020, but the contract for the private shipbuilder to perform the repair was still in negotiations.

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

Esper aboard the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019.

(US Department of Defense)

The Boise maintains a full crew, despite being stuck at Naval Base Norfolk.

Cornell told Insider that while there is indeed a full crew aboard the Boise, “the command has been executing an aggressive plan to send crew members to other submarines to both support the other ships, including deployments, and to gain Boise crewmembers valuable operational experience.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2018 that attack submarines have spent 10,363 days in “idle time” — when they can’t operate and are unable to get repairs — since 2008.

During that time, the Navy also spent an estimated id=”listicle-2640620235″.5 billion to maintain attack subs that weren’t operational.

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

Articles

Osprey flights in Japan halted after mishap

The commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force has ordered a stop to all MV-22 Osprey flight operations in Japan until safety procedures can be reviewed after one of the tiltrotor aircraft was forced to make an emergency shallow-water landing off the coast of Okinawa on Tuesday.


In a press conference in Okinawa following the incident, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson said the aircraft had been conducting aerial refueling operations over water when the rotor blades hit the refueling line, causing damage to the aircraft.

Also read: NATO is hunting for this Russian submarine in the Med

“After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently,” Nicholson said, according to a III MEF news release. “The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab … and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa.”

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

All five Marine crew members aboard the Osprey were rescued from the aircraft and taken to the naval hospital at Camp Foster for treatment following the crash. According to the release, three have been released, and two remain under observation. Their current condition was not described.

III MEF officials said a salvage survey is being conducted to determine how best to recover the damaged Osprey safely, while protecting the environment. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

During the press conference, Nicholson thanked the Japan Coast Guard and the Okinawan police for their assistance in responding to the crash.

“I regret that this incident took place,” Nicholson said. “We are thankful for all the thoughts and prayers the people of Okinawa gave to our injured crew.”

The Marines’ use of the Osprey on Okinawa has long been a point of contention among residents, many of whom fear that the aircraft might be especially prone to crashes given its history of deadly incidents in its early days. When additional Ospreys arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in 2012, locals held protests to oppose the move.

This is the second time in four months that Nicholson has ordered an operational pause for aircraft in Japan. In September, he ordered AV-8B Harriers in the region to temporarily halt operations after one of the aircraft crashed off of Okinawa.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fourth US soldier dies from deadly roadside bomb in Afghanistan

A US soldier critically injured by a roadside bomb that killed three US service members in Afghanistan last week died of his wounds over the weekend.

Army Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary, a 24-year-old native of Export, Pennsylvania, died Sunday in Landstuhl, Germany from injuries sustained from the improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni, Afghanistan on Nov. 27, the Department of Defense said in a statement Monday.

McClary was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado. That blast also killed three special operations troops — Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin.


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