The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation to crown prince of Saudi Arabia in 2017 set the stage for him to pursue aggressive policies that included confrontations with many rivals around the region.

But changes to the royal line of succession and decisions by the 32-year-old crown prince at home and abroad have undermined the kingdom’s longstanding stability and left him in doubt about his own safety, according to Bruce Riedel, the director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project.

Prince Mohammed is reportedly aware of the growing enmity.


“Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah,” Riedel wrote for Al-Monitor, where he is a columnist.

Prince Mohammed reportedly dropped a half-billion dollars on the 440-foot-long yacht, named Serene, in late 2016 after spotting it while vacationing in the south of France.

He bought it from a Russian billionaire who moved out the day the deal was signed, and the vessel includes two helipads, an indoor climbing wall, a fully equipped spa, and three swimming pools.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

(DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

But Prince Mohammed bought it as he helped push severe austerity at home, including major spending cuts and a freeze on government contracts. Such spending is often used to quell dissent.

“It’s a floating palace longer than a football field and with many perks,” Riedel wrote of the yacht. “It is also a potential escape hatch.”

‘A foolish and dangerous approach’

The main foreign-policy issues that have raised ire toward Prince Mohammed are the now four-year-old war in Yemen — his signature initiative — and the blockade of Qatar.

Criticism of Prince Mohammed’s bloody and disastrous war in Yemen, which has subjected many Yemenis to famine and disease, has been brewing inside Saudi Arabia for months, according to Riedel.

A video of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz — the half-brother of King Salman, the father of Prince Mohammed — publicly blaming Prince Mohammed for the war went viral in the kingdom in September 2018.

Saudi Arabia’s turn on Qatar reportedly came as a surprise to many US officials, frustrating them even as US President Donald Trump castigated the Qataris. The blockade has been unwelcome within Saudi Arabia — one cleric has been arrested and faces execution for criticizing it — and has split the Gulf Cooperation Council, Riedel wrote.

Prince Mohammed’s roundup of powerful business executives and members of the royal family in 2017 may have been his biggest domestic miscalculation. It spooked investors and led to capital flight, diminishing confidence in Prince Mohammed’s ability to manage economic issues.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and members of his delegation, March 14, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Among the dozens of businessmen and princes who were arrested was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the leader of the Saudi national guard, the kingdom’s premier fighting force, which, along with the campaign in Yemen, may further alienate Prince Mohammed from the military.

The removal of Prince Mutaib was seen as likely to stir discontent, and Salman’s moves, particularly the roundup, have fed the impression inside the kingdom of Salman “as someone who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal enrichment and political aggrandizement,” according to Rosie Bsheer, a history professor at Yale.

Salman remains the most likely heir as long as his father is alive, but his actions have helped make the kingdom the least stable it has been in 50 years, according to Riedel. Should King Salman, now 81, die in the near future, succession could be disputed, and the process to appoint the next king could turn violent.

“The Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia a blank check and supports its war in Yemen,” Riedel wrote. “The crown prince has been touted by the White House. It’s a foolish and dangerous approach.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Aardvark was a nuclear-capable supersonic beast

In a day and age where the United States Air Force has a grand total of 76 B-52H Stratofortress, 62 B-1B Lancer, and 20 B-2A Spirit bombers in service, it’s fair to say the United States’ bomber force is quite potent. That said, there aren’t as many in service as there once were.

One plane that once supplemented the bomber force quite well was the F-111 Aardvark. This was a fast, all-weather strike plane that was originally designed to serve both the Air Force and Navy, much like today’s Joint Strike Fighter. While the Navy version didn’t pan out, the Aardvark, after some teething problems, emerged as a reliable strike asset by 1972.


The F-111 could deliver payload. According to Christopher Chant’s Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Aardvark could haul as many as 36 Mk 82 500-pound dumb bombs. By comparison, the B-52 can haul 51 of those same bombs. So, in terms of load, each Aardvark accounted for 70.5 percent of a legendary BUFF.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

This F-111 has Durandal runway-cratering bombs loaded. As you can see, it carries a lot.

(USAF)

As aviation historian Joe Baugher noted, during the F-111A’s deployment to Vietnam as part of Operation Linebacker II, each F-111 was capable of dropping the bomb load of five F-4 Phantoms. Not only could the F-111 deliver one hell of a payload, it could do so very accurately due to advanced radars.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

This F-111F is being prepared for the April, 1986, strike on Libya.

(USAF)

Three newer models of the F-111 — the F-111D, F-111E, and F-111F — all entered service in the 1970s. None of these variants saw action in the Vietnam War, but saw plenty of action elsewhere. The F-111F played a key role in the April, 1986, strikes on Libya and both the F-111E and F-111F saw action in Desert Storm.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

An F-111 drops two dozen Mk 82 500-pound bombs – about half the load a B-52 can carry.

(USAF)

An electronic warfare version of the F-111, the EF-111A, also played a key role in Desert Storm — one even scored a maneuver kill against an Iraqi Mirage F-1!

Today, the F-111 is retired, but would still make a formidable foe in the skies. Learn more about the potent Aardvark in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfBZm3jA2bk

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this new tool will save the Air Force millions

In early May, 2018, Tech. Sgt. Chance Cole, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight line expediter, came up with an idea – and it’s going to save the Air Force a lot of money.

“We were wrapping up a twelve-hour shift, and two of my guys just spent nearly an entire day replacing a single part on the MQ-9 Reaper,” Cole said. “It was frustrating, because we knew there had to be a more efficient way of doing this job.”

Cole described the issue, saying the part they were replacing actually didn’t need to be replaced at all. The real culprit was just a $53 sub-component held within, named the “spline insert.”


According to Cole, each time maintenance personnel were unable to replace the insert, they actually had to remove and replace a much larger and more complex assembly, the Permanent Magnetic Alternator. This process had been accomplished multiple times in the past due to an inability to remove a damaged insert and it added unnecessary time and expense.

Cole asked co-worker Staff Sgt. Hermann Nunez, 386 EAMXS crew chief, to stay after his shift to help him create a solution. Mere hours later, they brought their idea to life and fabricated what they described as a crude prototype designed to remove the damaged insert.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

Although the prototype was functional, Cole and Nunez concluded they needed assistance in creating a more-refined product to be used the next time the need arose. The next morning, they decided to bring the tool to the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Combat Metals Flight. There, Senior Airman Alex Young and Senior Airman Elio Esqueda, aircraft metals technicians, decided to take action.

“They brought their prototype to us and asked for some advice,” Young said. “One look at the tool and we knew exactly what to do – so we got to work.”

According to Young, the tool initially provided was simply a long bolt that matched the insert threads, which the crew chiefs used to extract the insert. However, use of the tool required a decent amount of strength – as the user had to physically pull the crude tool to remove the insert from the PMA.

Young and Esqueda fabricated something called a slide hammer, which provides the user a counter-weight to slide along the tool’s shaft in order to hammer the piece out with ease.

The device, which the four Airmen named the “Spline Insert Extractor,” was completed May 5, 2018. The four Airmen then routed the product through their chain of command before implementing its use. After passing multiple inspections and approval from their leadership, the tool was put into service locally.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

According to the maintainers, the finished product prevents at least four hours of maintenance each time they use the tool to replace the insert instead of replacing the PMA. Use of the tool is projected to save more than $123,000 annually – and that’s just at the 386th EAMXS.

According to Cole, the tool is currently in the process to be approved for use throughout the Air Force on all MQ-9 Block 5 Reapers. Once adopted by the enterprise, he expects the tool will be modified and adapted for usage on the MQ-9 Block 1, as well.

“When we first started the process to create the tool, we only had the intention of fixing a problem we were having here locally,” Cole said. “Thanks to Airmen like Staff Sgt. Nunez, Senior Airman Young and Senior Airman Esqueda helping me with this simple fix, we now have the opportunity to make a lasting impact for our peers across the globe.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s top stealth fighter might have gotten a range boost

China’s most advanced stealth fighter is ready for aerial refueling operations, giving it the ability to pursue targets at greater distances, according to Chinese state media.

The “fifth-generation” Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter entered military service in 2017 and was incorporated into Chinese combat units in February 2018. This aircraft, the pride of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, put on quite a show at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, where it showed off its payload of missiles for the first time publicly while rocking a new paint job.


China Central Television (CCTV), a state-run broadcaster, revealed recently that the aircraft has been equipped with a retractable refueling probe, which is embedded on the right side of the cockpit. The refueling probe was embedded to help the fighter maintain stealth, something with which the J-20 has struggled. A consistently-exposed probe extending from the fuselage would make the J-20 much more visible to enemy radar systems.

Four of the six onboard missiles are stored internally in a missile bay, a design feature intended to make the J-20 more stealthy, Chinese military experts told China’s Global Times.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

The two Chengdu J-20s making their first public appearance.

Although the exact range of the Chinese stealth fighter, nicknamed the “Powerful Dragon,” is unknown, the aircraft has a suspected combat radius of roughly 1,100 kilometers, making it suitable for long-range strikes and intercepts. With aerial refueling capabilities, the J-20 can extend its reach, giving China the ability to better patrol the disputed waterways where it desires to exercise authority.

The J-20 could be refueled by a Chinese HU-6 aerial tanker.

The J-20’s chief designer says the world has yet to see the best that the aircraft has to offer, stressing that certain capabilities were unable to be presented at the recent airshow.

Chinese experts argue that the J-20 as a combat platform superior to the American F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, two elite fighters which have both been tested in combat. The J-20 has only taken part in combat training exercises. Furthermore, while the J-20 was expected to receive a new engine, the technology remains unreliable, the South China Morning Post recently reported.

The J-20 continues to rely on either Russian imports or inferior Chinese engines, which have, according to some observers, prevented China from achieving the kind of all-aspect stealth of which a true fifth-generation fighter should be capable. The J-20 has decent front-end stealth, but it is noticeably less stealthy at different angles.

The J-20 was rushed into production, but as China works some of the kinks out, it could potentially lead to the development of a much more lethal and effective aircraft.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MARSOC gets more lethal with this new sniper rifle

The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.


The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.

“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System

The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.

The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.

“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
.300 Winchester Magnum (center) flanked by its parent cartridges.

The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.

“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.

“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”

MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.

“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”

In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.

“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the exact moment that sparked the Cold War

On Sept. 5, 1945, a young Soviet cipher clerk in Ottawa, Canada packed his things to leave the office and go home for the day. It was a day like any other day, for the most part, except this time as he put on his coat, he also stuffed a number of top-secret documents underneath. It was just days after the end of World War II in Europe, and the young clerk was hoping these documents would buy him asylum in Canada.

Igor Gouzenko had evidence the Soviet Union was operating an extensive spy operation in Canada. It was the first time the West was forced to come to terms with the idea that the Soviet Union was not their friend.


The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Igor Gouzenko would appear in television interviews with his identity hidden by a cloth bag.

The documents held by Gouzenko did indeed earn him asylum in Canada. Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were able to round up 11 of the 24 suspected spies as the Parliament began investigation and prosecution proceedings. Prime Minister Mackenzie King then informed the world about the raids and the spy operation. Gouzenko was subsequently interrogated by MI5, the British internal security service, and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, to whom Gouzenko was able to reveal the names of 20 or so spies.

Soviets spies had infiltrated universities, the military, and even the Canadian Parliament, all in search of nuclear secrets. Canada was playing a role in the Manhattan Project, the U.S. development of an atomic weapon, and the Soviets were looking for any clues that would give them an edge in duplicating the effort. The spy ring uncovered by the young cipher clerk extended all the way to Los Angeles.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Gouzenko later wrote a book about the experience.

The documents Gouzenko provided were of so much value, many of them were still classified as of 2014. The young cipher clerk divulged all of the Soviet Union’s most sensitive military and intelligence codebooks, and even implicated MI5’s former chief Sir Roger Hollis as a Soviet agent. Worldwide, Soviet espionage activities suffered in the immediate aftermath. This was not only due to increased suspicion against their onetime allies and to root out suspected moles but also because the Soviets began to overhaul their own methods.

Soviet installations were suddenly crippled by new safety and reporting procedures, extensive screening processes for overseas stations that were more attractive than the Soviet Union. Even one of Stalin’s assassins who was reportedly supposed to kill Gouzenko had been in Canada so long, he didn’t want to leave. Rather than kill the traitor, he defected too, giving up information on all of the Soviet death squads in the country.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US Navy doesn’t use battleships anymore

Long gone are the days where the United States Navy roamed the seas with heavily-armed battleships as its primary capital ships. Not everyone who talks naval warfare entirely agrees with mothballing the biggest guns of the American Navy, but there’s a reason the old battleships are gone – and a reason they’re never coming back.


The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

“Come at me, bro.”

There was a time when ship-to-ship fighting was the way of war on the world’s oceans. It made sense to create the biggest, baddest ship technology would allow, then arm it with as many weapons as it took to tear the enemy to shreds. If there was any way you could also prevent yourself from getting torn to shreds with some heavy armor, that was great too. Imagine how great it felt to watch British cannonballs bounce off the sides of the USS Constitution as you watched your shipmates take down part of the “world’s most powerful navy.”

As time wore on, the technology only got better. By the Civil War, “Ironsides” was more than a nickname. It was a must-have feature on American ships, made famous by the confrontation of the USS Monitor’s and the CSS Virginia’s epic shootout at Hampton Roads. By the 20th Century, naval powers were churning out ships with speed, firepower, and armor in a race to be able to sink the other side’s seafaring battleships.

Once the two sides saw each other, it was on.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Kinda like that.

In modern naval warfare, however, two sides don’t need to see each other. As a matter of fact, one side is better off being able to strike the other without warning – and without one side being able to return fire. These days, satellite technology, radars, and other long-range sensor technologies mean an attacker can see its target without ever needing to go looking for them. More importantly, a battleship (or battleship fleet) can be hit and destroyed without ever seeing where the shots were fired.

And while the battleship would be searching to take down its seaborne opponent, land-based ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles fired from aircraft would be on its way to put 2,500-plus battleship sailors at the bottom of the ocean.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

That last hit made Tommy remember his shipmates on the Lexington and the night took a dark turn.

What battleships are still effective for is supporting ground forces with its guns, using them as support artillery for landing Marines. This is the main reason pro-battleship advocates argue for recommissioning the Iowa-class battleships currently being used as museums. But even the Iowa-class still uses a lot of sailors to fire so-called “dumb” weapons at a potentially civilian-filled environment, while a more precision close air support strike would be more effective and lower the risk of civilian casualties.

Not to mention lowering the risk of a counterattack killing the 2,500 sailors that might be manning the guns.

Articles

Here’s how Boeing’s updated F/A-18 may compare to the F-35

President-elect Donald Trump caused a genuine uproar in the combat-aviation community when he tweeted in December, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”


The idea that an F/A-18 Super Hornet could be “comparable” to the F-35 met swift and intense condemnation, and Lockheed Martin quickly lost billions in value on its stock.

Related: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

“No, Mr. Trump, You Can’t Replace F-35 With A ‘Comparable’ F-18” a headline at Breaking Defense said.

“You can’t replace the F-35 with an F-18 any more than you can replace an aircraft carrier with a cruise ship,” a headline at Popular Science said.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
The Boeing concept for the Advanced Super Hornet, pictured here without enclosed weapons pods. | Boeing

Lt. Col. David Berke, a former commander of the US Marine Corps’ first operational F-35B squadron, told Business Insider the idea of upgrading a legacy fighter to do the F-35’s job was plainly “preposterous.”

Virtually everyone pointed to a single aspect of the F-35 that the F/A-18 lacked: stealth.

But the US and other countries already have in their sights a modern update on the F/A-18 that is meant to complement the F-35. The update may be poised to deliver even more capability than Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter in some areas, even without being as stealthy.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s. The company is planning considerable updates that will focus on “addressing the gaps” in naval aviation.

Gillian and the Boeing team call it the Advanced Super Hornet, a modern update on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an update on the original F/A-18 Hornet. Gillian says Boeing designed the Super Hornet “from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years.”

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike). | U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer

“We have a legacy with the F-18 — on time on cost,” Gillian said, which one could contrast to the F-35 program, which has faced constant production overruns in cost and time. In fact, a recent report says the Navy’s version of the F-35 just hit yet another setback that could take years and billions to fix.

Gillian says Boeing could start fielding Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s at the latest, while some limited contracts to bring elements of the Advanced Super Hornet are already underway. So even though the designs of the F-35 and the F/A-18 reflect different missions, they certainly are comparable in terms of price, availability, and capability.

So what does a 2017 update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet look like?

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
Boeing

“When we talk about the Advanced Super Hornet package, it can be delivered to a build of new airplanes and it can be retrofitted to existing airframes,” Gillian said.

“An airplane that I’m building today off the line has some systems that have matured over time that a Super Hornet would not have,” he added, saying there would essentially be no difference between a 2017 Advanced Super Hornet and a Super Hornet plucked off an aircraft carrier and brought up to date.

The physical characteristics of a fully decked out Advanced Super Hornet would be as follows:

  • Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. These fuel tanks could “extend the reach about 125 nautical miles,” meaning the planes can “either go faster or carry more,” according to Gillian.
  • An infrared search and track radar, which would be the first such capability included on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat. This will allow the Advanced Super Hornets to counter enemy stealth capability and to get a read on heat-emitting entities without emitting any radar signal of their own. “There was a fixation on stealth attributes,” Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, “which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum, all planes emit heat.”
  • Advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family leads the US military in EW platforms with the Growler, an EW version of the Super Hornet in which Boeing has “taken out the gun and installed more EW equipment … Instead of missiles on the wing tips it has a large sensing pods,” Gillian said. The Navy has scheduled the F-35C to eventually carry the advanced EW pod, but the initial generation of F-35s will have to rely on Growlers for EW attacks. The Advanced Super Hornet will have EW self-protection, but not the full suite present on the Growler.
  • An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display. Basically “a big iPad for the airplane, allowing the pilot to manage all the information and data that’s out there,” Gillian said, comparing its utility to the F-35’s display.
  • Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.

Further enhancements still to be considered by the US Navy for Advanced Super Hornets include the following:

  • An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane’s radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut its radar signature by up to 50%.
  • An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn’t yet begun earnestly working toward this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.

Hypothetically, Advanced Super Hornets could field IRST before F-35Cs come online. Growlers will also serve in the vital role of EW attack craft, without which the F-35 cannot do its job as a stealth penetrator.

So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never be comparable to the F-35 in all aspects, it could certainly develop some strengths that the F-35 lacks.

Additionally, Gillian said the Advanced Super Hornets would not cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which run about $70 million apiece. Even if that price rose by $10 million, it would still be lower than that of the cheapest expected F-35s, which come in at $85 million.

Conclusion: Could Boeing create an F/A-18 ‘comparable’ to the F-35?

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht
It’s unanimous. The F-18 will never do the F-35’s job, and vice versa. | Lockheed Martin

“The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing,” said Gillian, who stressed that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were “well positioned” to improve in scope and capability over time.

Gillian made it clear, however, that the Advanced Super Hornet program had been, since its inception, meant to accompany the F-35, with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s.

The US Navy has contracts already underway to update its existing Super Hornet fleet with elements of the Advanced Super Hornet package, and it seems the US will end up with both Advanced Super Hornets and F-35s, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The F/A-18, not designed with all-aspect stealth in mind, will most likely never serve as a penetrating aircraft for heavily contested airspace, but its future onboard America’s aircraft carriers is well defined for decades to come.

But with Boeing’s field record of delivering F/A-18 projects on time and on budget, and the US Navy left waiting by overrun after overrun in the F-35 program, the two planes are starting to look like apples and oranges — both good choices. Choosing which to buy and when may simply come down to what is available on the market.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hundreds attend a funeral for a Vietnam vet with no family

There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.

The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.

Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.


Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.

“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”

Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

(WOWT- TV Omaha)

The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a Russian Su-34 Fullback fire a rocket at a close target during ground tests

Videos of gun and missile tests taken at the Russian GkNIPAS range are extremely interesting. The one of the Su-34 is pretty unusual too.


The top image, showing a Russian Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback attack aircraft firing what appears to be an S-25 rocket at a close concrete target was filmed at the GkNIPAS FKP, the Russian State Governmental Scientific-Testing Area of Aircraft Systems.

Created on Jun. 27, 1941, “GkNIPAS” is one of the largest ranges in Russia and the leading one for the testing of aviation technology products (both aircraft and weapons). The site is located in a forest area about 60 km to the southeast of Moscow, and includes 50 facilities scattered across an area that covers about 10,000 hectares (100 sqkm)..

The range installations and computer-related systems, allow for testing in the areas of:

  • Study on the impact of air and space conditions and electromagnetic effects on the air-launched weapons;
  • Aeroballistic research used to examine the ballistic trajectories of aircraft and weapons at supersonic and hypersonic speeds;
  • Research of interaction between the weapons and the lauch platform;
  • Research on the impact of heat and vibrations on weapons during transport and storage;
  • Test of rockets and their engine systems;
  • Studies of the erosive effect on the protective coatings of aircraft weapons arising from aerodynamic and thermal loading
  • Research of aircraft effects on atmospheric ozone layer;
  • Research on the characteristics of aerosol formations and two-phase flows
  • Tests of the emergency escape and lifesaving equipment of aircraft;
  • Tests for national and international certification purposes of parts and systems of commercial aircraft with human-like dummies
  • Study of the dynamics of parachute systems.

Here below you can find an interesting video showing many of the activities carried out at the Russian range, including the Yak-130 ejection seats test; the Su-34’s 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon ground firing and what seems to be a test of the ability of the Su-25’s armour to stop bullets.

www.youtube.com

Back to the Su-34, the aircraft entered in active service with the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2014. It is a two-seat strike fighter with a maximum range of 4,000 km, a payload of up to 12,000 kg on 12 hardpoints, the ability to carry R-77 and and R-73 missiles, a 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon, and a Khibiny ECM suite. For more details about the aircraft take a look at the infographic we posted here.

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Rocket test.

The top image of the Su-34 firing a rocket was sourced from a video about the development of the Fullback that you can watch here. It is at least interesting and rare to see an AAM (Air-to-Air Missile) tested on the ground from a plane with the extended landing gear. I honestly can’t remember of similar tests on other aircraft (but I may well be wrong, in such case please leave a comment or point me to a video that I would be glad to see). Usually, gun testing and calibrations are carried out with aircraft on the ground (hence with extended landing gear). But recent video has shown a Russian Su-25 using laser-guided air-to-ground projectiles in an air-to-air role against a Tu-16 bomber, hence it’s probably not too surprising. BTW, at around 30:23 of the video linked above, you can see the aircraft’s Chief Designer Rollan Martirosov who passed away recently.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Defectors living openly in US happens ‘far more often than people would think’

A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.

According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.

Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.


Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”

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Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.

When an NBC News reporter knocked on the door of the Smolenkov house Sep. 9, 2019, he was intercepted by unidentified men asking what he was doing.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.

That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.

“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.

“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.

“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.

“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”

Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.

But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.

All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.

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Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.

(Sky News)

Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.

Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.

“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.

“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.

“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”

When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”

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

Articles

US general concerned about Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic

A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.


“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.

“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”

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Lt. General Ken Wilsbach (left) – DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Litke

Wilsbach defended Russia’s five recent military flights near Alaska’s coast, however, saying they were legal and never entered U.S. airspace.

On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.

Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Articles

Green Beret dies in accident during anti-Boko Haram mission

A Green Beret was killed in a Feb. 2 vehicle accident while deployed to Niger, We Are The Mighty has learned.


According to an Africa Command spokeswoman, Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas died and another Green Beret was wounded in the incident, which took place while they were traveling between military outposts in the West African nation.

“The service members were part of a small military team advising members of the Nigerien Armed Forces who are conducting counter-Boko Haram operations to bring stability to the Lake Chad Basin region,” Capt. Jennifer Dyrcz, a spokeswoman for United States Africa Command, said in an e-mail.  “This happened during a routine administrative movement between partner force outposts when the accident occurred. It is clear at this time enemy forces were not involved,”

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, Thomas was in Niger as part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Each Special Forces Group specializes in a different region of the world. The 3rd SFG specializes in operating Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Niger.

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Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas. (US Army photo)

“The cause and circumstances of the accident remain under investigation. We will release more details if and when appropriate,” Dyrcz added. “To be clear, we take accidents like this seriously, and will do everything we can to ensure the proper safety measures are in place to protect our service members.”

While Boko Haram is best known for its attacks in Nigeria — notably the kidnapping of over 200 girls from their school near Chibok in April 2014 — a State Department report from 2013 notes that the group has also operated in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Stars and Stripes reported that the United States military has been launching reconnaissance missions with unmanned aerial vehicles from the Nigerien capital, Niamey.

Nigeria carried out air strikes last August, killing some high-ranking members of the group. Last November, two couriers with the group were killed while in possession of a shopping list that included a number of libido enhancers and drugs to treat venereal disease.

Army Special Operations Command had not responded to e-mails requesting further details about the accident.