Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, according to the U.S. Navy, who captured the aggressive moves and posted them to YouTube and the official Navy website.
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian aircraft simulating attacks over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)
The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tried to contact the Russian aircraft via the radio, but received no response. Such incidents happened routinely during the Cold War, but a joint agreement in 1972 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov ended the practice by creating a policy of avoiding provocative interactions at sea.
The Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea when the events took place over the two days. On April 11, Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter, once while the helicopter was refueling on the ship’s deck.
The U.S. military said the maneuvers were one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes also flew so close they created wake in the water.
The SU-24 fighters made 11 passes, according to the Department of Defense. Although their maneuvers were aggressive, the planes carried no visible weaponry.
U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels. The nearest Russian-controlled territory was about 70 nautical miles away in the enclave of Kaliningrad, sitting between Lithuania and Poland.
The close calls on April 12 came when the Cook was still in international waters. This time a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitudes, making seven passes around the ship.
The Navy expressed its deep concerns about the Russian flight maneuvers, saying these actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. Flight operations aboard the Cook were canceled until the Russians were clear of the area.
“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to the Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
Before World War II, the Marine Corps had what were known as Marine Defense Battalions. These units were used to defend outposts like those on Wake Island and Midway Atoll, and the one at Wake deserves credit for one of the great stands in Marine Corps history after being left high and dry by the U.S. Navy’s answer to George McClellan.
Now the Marines may be ready to resurrect that concept. According to a solicitation posted at FedBizOpps on Oct. 27 of this year, the service is looking for some land-based anti-ship missiles that can reach out and touch the enemy at least 80 miles away. The system needs to be “employable by highly deployable and mobile forces.”
Such missiles are actually old hat for many countries, both friendly and not-so-friendly. Norway, for instance, relied on land-based batteries of the Penguin anti-ship missile to supplement armed missile boats should the Cold War have turned hot. The Soviet Union (and later Russia) developed land-based versions of the SS-N-3 Shaddock, SS-N-2 Styx, and the SS-N-26 Sapless. China’s Silkworm missiles were famously purchased by Iran, and Iran developed the Noor, which was fired at American ships multipletimes last year.
According to Marine Corps history, during World War II, 20 Marine Defense Battalions were formed. Back then, these units generally had coastal artillery to defend against enemy ships (the 1st Marine Defense Battalion at Wake actually sank a Japanese destroyer), as well as machine guns for defending against troops, and anti-aircraft guns for use against enemy planes. And of course, every Marine in those units was a rifleman.
What sort of modern missiles might be used? The United States does have the Harpoon anti-ship missile in service – some versions of which can reach over 80 miles. Other relatively off-the-shelf options could include the Norwegian-designed NSM, or a ground-launched version of the LRASM. There is also the chance that the 155mm Vulcano heat-seeking round could be used from Marine Corps M777 howitzers.
In short, the Marines’ desire for a few good anti-ship missiles could lead to the return of some little-known but storied units to the Marine Corps.
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
On September 21, 1942, 73 years ago, the maiden flight of the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” took place.
The plane was the successor of Boeing’s ultra-tough B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and the predecessor to the B-52 “Stratofortress,” which is still in use today.
The plane would become the long range, heavy bombing workhorse of the Pacific theater of World War II, where it achieved fame and infamy for dropping Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Relive the legacy of this iconic bomber in the pictures below.
The B-29 was very advanced for its time, featuring a pressurized cabin, tricycle dual-wheeled landing gear, and remote controlled gun turrets.
Only the front and back compartments were pressurized, meaning that the crew had to crawl over the bomb bay via a narrow 35-foot tunnel.
At the time, it was the heaviest production plane in the world, weighing in at 105,000 pounds with an optional 20,000 pounds of bombs.
A B-29 from the 468th Bombardment group attacking Hatto, Formosa on 18 October 1944 with high-explosive bombs. Overshot runway due to prop failure Jun 17, 1945 at West Field, Tinian.
In addition to bombs, the B-29 was armed with 12 remotely controlled .50 caliber Browning machine guns and a 20 millimeter cannon at the tail gun.
Kenneth W. Roberts, of Weitchpee, Calif., assigned to the Japan-based 98th Bomb Wing, checks his trio of .50 caliber tail-stingers before another mission over North Korea in his U.S. Air Force B-29 “Superfortress.”
Here is rare color footage of a formation of B-29s dropping bombs.
Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.
Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.
Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.
Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.
Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.
The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.
The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.
“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.
The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.
Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017. Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.
At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.
While the Defense Department has no official policy that explicitly states service members or U.S. federal employees may not buy stock in companies that manufacture or sell marijuana, commanders have the discretion to warn their troops against the move because it could jeopardize security clearances.
Commanders do have the authorities to develop local policies as long as they do not contradict with overall DoD guidelines, according to a defense official who spoke with Military.com on background. If an organization or command issues guidelines stating the organization’s legal position on the matter, it does not mean it is official DoD policy, the official said.
The clarification comes after multiple emails surfaced from local leaders telling service members to be careful about what they invest in — especially if they hold a clearance.
“While, currently, no official DoD guidance specific to financial involvement in marijuana exists, the Pentagon continues to research the topic,” Army Lt. Col. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said March 7, 2019. “Any changes will be addressed through normal policy update procedures.”
(Flickr photo by Miranda Nelson)
DoD uses 13 criteria to evaluate security clearance request, flagging service members who may be at risk for illicit or illegal activities. These evaluation criteria range from allegiance to the U.S. to sexual preferences and financial circumstances and debt.
“Recently, several news outlets have incorrectly cited a change in Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF) policy regarding investment in companies that sell or manufacture marijuana or related products,” Harris said in a statement. “The DoD CAF does not issue policy. Instead, the DoD CAF adheres to applicable policies when making adjudicative determinations.”
“These determinations apply the ‘whole person concept’ and take into account all available information, favorable and unfavorable, to render an appropriate determination on a person’s reliability and trustworthiness to hold a clearance,” Harris added.
While the clearance determination process is subjective, the evaluation categories illustrate how much risk people are willing to take, which could imperil their jobs, the official said.
The current guidance stems from a 2014 memo signed by then-Direction of National Intelligence James Clapper.
The memo states that any government employee who disregards federal law about “the use, sale, or manufacture of marijuana” remains under scrutiny, and could be denied for a security clearance.
While the use “or involvement with marijuana” calls into question “an individual’s judgment,” the memo, signed Oct. 25, 2014, does not explicitly mention investing in companies that legally distribute marijuana.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The United States and Israel are putting on a large-scale joint exercise — one with high stakes in the Middle East. Right now, the two countries are rehearsing defense against a ballistic missile attack.
According to a report by the Jewish Press, Juniper Cobra, an exercise held every two years, is underway. This time, the exercise is simulating a massive, two-front attack against Israel, which, historically, has been no stranger to hostile ballistic missiles landing in its territory.
During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein launched dozens of modified SS-1 “Scud” missiles at Israel. A total of 39 missiles landed on Israeli territory, causing two deaths and substantial property damage. That number would have been higher had the United States not deployed batteries of MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Israel.
The stakes for this exercise are high and have increased as tensions mount over Israeli allegations of Iranian actions in Syria and Lebanon. Iranian leaders have vowed in the past to wipe Israel off the map. An American missile-defense test in Hawaii ended in failure when a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 Block IIA missile missed a target late last month. Let’s hope this exercise proves to be more successful.
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro on Feb. 27, 2019, tweeted a 40-minute-long livestream on Periscope about the government’s carnival preparations as the country further spirals into crisis.
Carnival — or “Carnaval” as known in Venezuela — is a big celebration celebrated before Lent every year, in which people dress up in costumes, dance, and attend parades with floats.
Maduro’s video came after a weekend of violent clashes when state forces barred activists from bringing in aid through the Colombian and Brazilian borders.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro discussed plans for Venezuela’s upcoming Carnaval celebrations while the country continues to crumble.
Police fired tear gas and pellets on protesters, killing at least two and injuring at least 300, The Associated Press (AP) reported. More than 300 Venezuelan soldiers defected and fled to Colombia after the unrest, the AP added.
But in his lengthy stream, Maduro primarily focused on his plans for a “safe carnival” in 2019. The video showed Venezuelans in costumes dancing and celebrating, as the president calls on ministers, governors and mayors to explain how the government will ensure smooth festivities.
Maduro then mused about cute children in costumes before announcing that he will also dress up and join the celebration.
The leader is often criticized for organizing big celebrations and performances, like salsa dancing, as a distraction from the humanitarian and economic crisis plaguing the nation.
Feb. 23, 2019, he was slammed for dancing at a concert while government forces blocked the entry of food and medicine at the borders.
Maduro addressed his critics in his Feb. 27, 2019, livestream, saying: “The imperialists were mad that I was dancing. We [Venezuelans] always dance because we are a happy people and this is a revolution of joy.”
The video also showed images of pro-government rallies, with Maduro saying that the majority of Venezuelans oppose international intervention.
Maduro and his allies around the world — like Russia, China, and Syria — have opposed foreign support for his opponent Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim government in January 2019.
Maduro also mocked Guaidó’s slogan while discussing Carnaval plans. “Vamos bien,” he said — Spanish for “we are making progress.”
Venezuelan “interim president” Juan Guaidó.
Guaidó is currently exiled in Colombia, and has met with US Vice President Mike Pence and the Lima Group, a regional bloc established to end the Venezuelan crisis.
Guaidó told his supporters via video on Feb. 26, 2019, that he is currently planning his return to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to mobilize his supporters. The exact date of his arrival and next steps will be made public in the coming days, he added.
He said he refuses “this compromise of having to fight from abroad,” referring to Colombia, and said that Maduro is “alone and desperate.”
Guaidó also posted an audio message, urging his supporters to keep mobilizing and and announcing unspecified actions to garner support from military and government workers.
The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.
The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of a unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuze built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.
Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.
The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.
Spc. Avery Lebron Johnson Jr. (R), a cannon crewmember in 1st Platoon, Archer Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment guides a m155 round into a M777 howitzer Aug. 5, 2017 while training in the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia during Noble Partner 17. Noble Partner is a multinational training exercise in support of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2d Cavalry Regiment)
“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.
BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.
“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.
Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.
GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter, Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attacked without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envisioned as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.
The rise of near-peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.
This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much-discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.
Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.
Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation, and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad-hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.
At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite coms, harden networks and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.
The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radio frequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.
Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.
Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer-range weapons and sensors.
This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — … “it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
The Pentagon released a list March 18, 2019, of hundreds of military construction projects worldwide totaling nearly $6.8 billion, many of which could be delayed or have funds diverted to fund the southern border wall.
The release of the list by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to the Senate Armed Services Committee came a day after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went on Sunday network talk shows to state that there was no existing list of projects facing cancellation and “it could be a while” before one was delivered to Congress.
The list was first made public by Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, ranking member on Senate Armed Services, on March 18, 2019, and later released by the Pentagon.
According to an accompanying statement, the list is a complete accounting of all projects still unawarded as of Dec. 31, 2018. Not everything on the list is eligible for reallocation; only projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, qualify, and no military housing, barracks or dormitory projects can be touched, officials said.
“The appearance of any project within the pool does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used to source section 2808 projects,” the Pentagon said in the statement.
“We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall,” said Reed, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, in a statement. “And now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result.”
The fact sheet accompanying the list held out the possibility that none of the targeted military construction projects “would be delayed or cancelled” if Congress passed the requested 0 billion defense budget by the Oct. 1 deadline for the start of fiscal year 2020.
Under the national emergency declared at the southern border by President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2019, the administration has been seeking an initial .6 billion from military construction projects to fund additional construction of the wall.
Another possible .6 billion from military construction for the wall was included in a .2 billion “emergency fund” that was part of the administration’s overall 0 billion request for next fiscal year.
In his statement, Reed charged that Trump was “planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall.”
President Donal Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
He said the funding would “come at the expense of our military bases and the men and women of our Armed Forces who rely on them.”
The existence of the list and its release has been a source of controversy since Trump declared a national emergency Feb. 15, 2019, after Congress rejected his request for .7 billion for the wall, resulting in a 35-day partial government shutdown.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the budget March 14, 2019, Shanahan agreed to the requests of several senators for the list of military construction projects. He said the list would be provided by the end of the day, but phoned Reed later to say the list would not be forthcoming.
A spokesman for Shanahan told Military.com March 15, 2019, that the list was still being worked on and would be provided to the “appropriate government officials.”
Under the emergency, Trump was seeking a total of about .2 billion for the wall, including .6 billion from military construction.
Both the Senate and the House have now passed a “motion of disapproval” against the national emergency and Trump last Friday signed a veto of the motion, the first veto of his presidency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has scheduled a March 26, 2019 vote to override the veto, although it appears that both the House and the Senate lacked the two-thirds majority necessary to override.
On CBS’ “Face The Nation” program March 17, 2019, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, charged that the White House was withholding the list to avoid possible Republican defections in the House override vote next week.
In his statement March 18, 2019, Reed made a similar suggestion.
“Now that members of Congress can see the potential impact this proposal could have on projects in their home states, I hope they will take that into consideration before the vote to override the President’s veto,” Reed said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.
NASA announced the results of the demonstration, called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology experiment, during a news conference May 2, 2018, at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The Kilopower experimentwas conducted at the NNSA’s Nevada National Security Site from November 2017 through March 2018.
“Safe, efficient and plentiful energy will be the key to future robotic and human exploration,” said Jim Reuter, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. “I expect the Kilopower project to be an essential part of lunar and Mars power architectures as they evolve.”
Kilopower is a small, lightweight fission power system capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power – enough to run several average households – continuously for at least 10 years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.
(Los Alamos National Laboratory photo)
According to Marc Gibson, lead Kilopower engineer at Glenn, the pioneering power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is difficult because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth.
“Kilopower gives us the ability to do much higher power missions, and to explore the shadowed craters of the Moon,” said Gibson. “When we start sending astronauts for long stays on the Moon and to other planets, that’s going to require a new class of power that we’ve never needed before.”
The prototype power system uses a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core, about the size of a paper towel roll. Passive sodium heat pipes transfer reactor heat to high-efficiency Stirling engines, which convert the heat to electricity.
According to David Poston, the chief reactor designer at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the purpose of the recent experiment in Nevada was two-fold: to demonstrate that the system can create electricity with fission power, and to show the system is stable and safe no matter what environment it encounters.
“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” said Poston.
The Kilopower team conducted the experiment in four phases. The first two phases, conducted without power, confirmed that each component of the system behaved as expected. During the third phase, the team increased power to heat the core incrementally before moving on to the final phase. The experiment culminated with a 28-hour, full-power test that simulated a mission, including reactor startup, ramp to full power, steady operation and shutdown.
(Los Alamos National Laboratory photo)
Throughout the experiment, the team simulated power reduction, failed engines and failed heat pipes, showing that the system could continue to operate and successfully handle multiple failures.
“We put the system through its paces,” said Gibson. “We understand the reactor very well, and this test proved that the system works the way we designed it to work. No matter what environment we expose it to, the reactor performs very well.”
The Kilopower project is developing mission concepts and performing additional risk reduction activities to prepare for a possible future flight demonstration. The project will remain a part of the STMD’s Game Changing Development program with the goal of transitioning to the Technology Demonstration Mission program in Fiscal Year 2020.
Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, including missions that rely on In-situ Resource Utilization to produce local propellants and other materials.
The Kilopower project is led by Glenn, in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama,and NNSA, including its Los Alamos National Laboratory, Nevada National Security Site and Y-12 National Security Complex.
For more information about the Kilopower project, including images and video, visit:
The U.S. Army has been looking beyond armor to augment the defense of Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles, responding to the emergence of more potent weapons without sacrificing speed and weight.
“Today, we need to adapt differently to threats, not just by adding more armor,” Col. Kevin Vanyo, program manager for Emerging Capabilities at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development, and Engineering Center, told the Army News Service, adding that the Abrams is already so heavy many bridges cannot support it.
Vanyo said his team was working on both “hard kill” APS, which uses physical countermeasures, and “soft kill” APS, which uses countermeasures like electro-magnetic signals to interfere with incoming weapons. Both systems would be part of the Modular Active Protection System, which is “a framework for a modular, open-systems architecture” that will allow an active-protection system to function once installed, he said.
The Army is considering three versions of MAPS, Vanyo told the Army News Service. Israeli-made Trophy APS on Abrams tanks, U.S.-made Iron Curtain APS on Stryker combat vehicles, and Iron Fist APS, also made by an Israeli company, on Bradley fighting vehicles.
Decisions about fielding the latter two systems will be made in early 2018, but the Army hopes to field the Trophy APS system by 2020, Vanyo said.
How an APS Hard-Kill sequence works. (Image from Congressional Research Service)
Personnel at the Army Test and Evaluation Command’s Alabama test center facility in Redstone Arsenal are working on an APS and other systems that can be deployed as part of MAPS, ATEC chief Maj. Gen. John Charlton told Army News Service. A main concern was figuring out if signals produced by an APS would interfere with the Army vehicle or be detectable by enemy sensors.
The U.S. Army has been evaluating APS for some time. It leased several Trophy systems in spring 2016, working with the Marine Corps to test them. It has also purchased some systems for testing.
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, told Scout Warrior this summer. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
Army Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the Army’s program executive officer for ground combat systems, said in mid-August that the Army was “very close to a decision on [installing] the Trophy system.”
“We’re looking to make those decisions rapidly so that we can spend money in the next Fiscal Year,” Bassett said, adding that he foresaw “a brigade’s worth of capability of Trophy on the Abrams.” The 2018 fiscal year began in October.
An Israeli Merkava IIID Baz tank. (Image from Israel Defense Forces)
Active-protection systems are already part of other countries’ arsenals. Israeli and Russian tanks both use the Trophy APS.
At least one country, Norway, has publicly discussed ways to counter Russian APS use — talk that appeared to break “a taboo among Western military officials and defence industries,” retired Brig. Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote earlier this year.
Even as militaries adopt active-protection systems to catch up with peers and rivals, there is reportedly a counter to APS already out there.
The most recent variant of the Russian-made RPG rocket launcher, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to act as an “agent provocateur” for active-protection systems, a Russian arms maker said in late 2015.