How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

In a deployed environment, security forces airmen perform a unique mission that differs from their traditional roles at home station. From patrolling the flightline in armored tactical vehicles to providing security for all personnel and Department of Defense assets going to austere locations in Afghanistan, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron maintains a vigilant presence at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Security forces airmen are experts in base defense and provide support to the airfield and mission partners through offensive and defensive postures, quick response force capabilities, and fly away security teams that support C-130 Hercules missions to dangerous locations.


“Our job is to provide mission support and enable safe and secure airfield operations,” said Maj. Joshua Webb, 455th ESFS commander. “We do that by providing different security postures at different points to detect and deter enemies.”

These airmen patrol the flightline in Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, commonly known as MRAPs, with a standard heavy weapons kit that allows sustainability in a firefight by protecting them while they defend the airfield.

They are specially trained to have a unique skillset and fundamental understanding of what it means to defend an airfield and the requirements to securely launch airfield operations. Webb said 455th ESFS airmen understand airfield operations and are better equipped to detect and defend against different types of threats in multiple domains.

“They are the first and last line of detection for the premiere counterterrorism wing,” he added.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

A C-17 Globemaster III taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012.

(U.S. Air Force phot by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

As well as being fully capable of responding to any threat on the flightline, these airmen are trained fly away security teams, or FAST, members who provide security for personnel and equipment transiting through the region to austere locations.

“Being part of the fly away security team means these guys get more training in close quarters combat and are able to provide a flight deck denial capability,” Webb said. “We aren’t dealing with the same mission as at a home station where they do various bits of law enforcement.”

Master Sgt. Paul Vibar, 455th ESFS FAST noncommissioned officer in charge, said he enjoys the excitement of being on FAST missions and his team’s role in securing DoD assets.

“It’s about protecting people and aircraft, which is especially important in this environment,” said Vibar, who deployed from the 255th Security Forces Squadron at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. “You never know what we’re going to find at some of these locations, so we always need to be prepared.”

Despite long hours patrolling and shift work, Webb said morale remains high because his team knows they are contributing to a worthy cause.

“Here it is nothing but mission, nothing but defense, and they find a lot of value in that,” Webb said.

Security forces airmen enable safe airfield operations and the safety of personnel at Bagram, but also back home.

“The mission we do here enables the men and women back home to be safe and secure,” Webb said. “We take the fight to the enemy and our role in that is to keep the aircraft and base personnel safe so they can perform their mission.”

Webb said he is proud of the work his airmen do each day and knows they believe in the mission.

“The expertise and mindset these airmen display on a day to day basis is unique, and that’s what allows us to adapt and overcome any issues we may encounter and mount a proper defense in the face of adversity,” he added. “I believe in my team and this mission with my whole heart.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

You can buy a civilian version of the Army’s new sidearm system

Sig Sauer, the maker of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, intends to sell a special, commercial version of the full-size MHS 9mm pistol.


“We are planning to do a limited release of about 5,000 of the Army variant of the M17 for the commercial market,” Tom Taylor, Sig Sauer’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president for commercial sales, told Military.com. “The timing is not finalized yet, but it looks to be late spring.”

The Army awarded Sig Sauer the MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January. The service launched its long-awaited MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.

The selection of Sig Sauer formally ended Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The pistols will become the M17 and M18 after they are type-classified.

Each commercial MHS will be serialized and have serialized matching coin as well as a letter of authenticity from the CEO of Sig Sauer, Taylor said.

Sig Sauer would likely be able to sell more than 5,000 of these pistols, but Taylor said, “we just wanted to make it really special. … And once they are out there, the owners will be privileged to own the actual gun.”

The commercial version will be almost identical to the Army-issue, full-size MHS, except it will not have the anti-tamper mechanism for the striker action, nor will it have the special coatings on some of the internal parts that help it maintain lubricity under harsh conditions, Taylor said.

Read Also: Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

The Army MHS comes standard with a frame-mounted thumb safety. The commercial version will be available with or without the thumb safety, depending on customer preference, Taylor said.

Sig Sauer has not yet decided on a price tag for the endeavor.

“It’s high in demand, but if we price it too high, they will say ‘I really want it, but it is just too expensive.'”

In addition to Sig Sauer, Glock Inc. told a German publisher in August that it plans on selling its MHS variant on the commercial market as well.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

Glock, FN America and Beretta USA, makers of the current M9 9mm pistol, all lost to Sig Sauer, but selling their versions of the MHS may allow them to recoup the money they invested in the high-profile endeavor.

Richard Flur, head of international sales for Glock GmbH, based in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, told Stephan Dorler, managing director of European Security and Defence, a publication based in Bonn, Germany, about Glock’s plans to sell its version of MHS on the commercial market.

A Glock official in the U.S. said, however, there is no timeline yet for such a plan.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Taiwan will defend itself from China’s J-20 stealth fighter

A Chinese military analyst told the state-run China Central Television that Beijing would soon fly its new J-20 stealth fighter into Taiwan’s airspace.

“J-20s can come and go at will above Taiwan,” Wang Mingliang, a military researcher at China National Defense University, said, according to Asia Times, adding that Taiwan was worried about “precision strikes on the leadership or key targets.”


This threat was also echoed by Zhou Chenming, another Chinese military analyst, in early May 2018.

“The PLA air force jets will enter the Taiwan [air defense identification zone] sooner or later,” Chenming told the South China Morning Post.

China officially put the J-20 into combat service in February 2018, and early May 2018, said the aircraft had flown its first sea training mission. But it’s still unclear whether the J-20 is operating with the new WS-15 engines or older WS-10G engines.

China’s “goal is reunification with Taiwan” and “this is just one piece,” Dan Blumenthal, the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told Business Insider, adding that cyber, sea, and political warfare were also part of Beijing’s plan to coerce Taiwan into reunification.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
(Screenshot / hindu judaic)

But Taiwan has a plan to counter China’s J-20: new mobile passive radars and new active radars for their F-16Vs, according to Taipei Times.

Taiwan will begin testing two new mobile passive radars developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology in 2018, and plans to begin mass producing them by 2020.

These passive radars will work in tandem with APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radars, which Taiwan started mounting on its F-16Vs in January 2017, Asia Times reported.

The active and passive radars will be linked in a way so that they do not emit radiation, making them less susceptible to electronic jamming and anti-radiation missile attacks, Asia Times reported.

“It’s exactly what they should be doing,” Blumenthal said. “Just like any country would, they’re going to try to chase [the J-20s] away,” adding that Taiwan’s plan would be effective but that the country still wouldn’t be able to defend its airspace as well as major powers such as the US.

“Taiwan could probably use all sorts of help,” Blumenthal said.

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

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How the identity theft in ‘Mad Men’ would actually play out

Mad Men, a fantastic period drama that ran from 2007 until 2015, followed the life of Don Draper, a 1960s advertising executive in Manhattan. The show was praised for being well-crafted and rightfully earned 16 Emmy awards and five Golden Globes. It was the first basic cable show to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama.

Toward the end of the first season, we see a flashback to the lead character’s time in the Korean War. Out of the laundry list of terrible, despicable things the protagonist does throughout the show — including lying, cheating, and fighting anyone on his way to the top — the only thing he expresses true remorse for is deserting the war by assuming the identity of a fallen lieutenant, Lt. Don Draper.

Let’s take a look at how this would play out in real life — and determine if this is some gigantic plot hole.


How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
The only person who knows of the protagonist’s desertion is the real Lt. Don Draper’s wife, who plays along in hopes of making something good come of her late husband’s death. They get a “divorce” but remain friends throughout the series.
(Lionsgate Television)

Before his service in the Korean War came to a close, Jon Hamm’s character went by the name of Dick Whitman, an adopted drifter with little family and even fewer prospects. When he arrives in Korea, he’s sent to build a field hospital, accompanied by only the real Lt. Don Draper.

The two men are attacked and an explosion kills Lt. Draper and seriously wounds Whitman. So, Whitman does what any coward trying to get out of there would do and swaps his dog tags with his dead officer’s before medical assistance shows up, effectively killing his former identity and assuming another. The man now known as Don Draper awakes in the hospital to an apathetic officer giving him a Purple Heart and orders to return stateside as soon as possible.

When the casket of the real Don Draper, now under the guise of Dick Whitman, is sent to the protagonist’s adoptive family, no one but his younger half-brother cares. As the casket is delivered, the protagonist is spotted by his younger brother, but his parents quickly dismiss his shouting, treating it as if he’d seen a ghost.

Draper quickly abandons both his previous life and his new one and finds work in advertising, setting up the show.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
Thus kicking off the rest of the show and its theme of piling lies on top of lies.
(Lionsgate Television)

Now, this event isn’t entirely implausible, but it required a perfect storm of outrageously “lucky” events.

First, despite being an engineer in the 7th Infantry Division, the protagonist was left with only a single person in his immediate chain of command. He arrives in South Korea, meets a single apathetic NCO who tells him to go to the tent, and he’s never seen again. There was, effectively, only one person who knew of his real identity in Korea — and he’s killed off.

Draper and Whitman are both sent back stateside in a hurry. Despite the death of an officer and Whitman’s serious injuries, the real Draper’s chain of command never checked up on one of their lieutenants as he’s sent back. This seems unlikely, but hey, there’s a war going on.

The body of Lt. Draper could have been identified with dental records, which have been recorded as far back as 1882, but the show goes out of its way to make everyone seem as apathetic as possible to make the situation more plausible. The body was never examined and everyone took Whitman’s claims at face value. All they needed to see were some dog tags before shipping him back.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
…and the series ends with none the wiser.
(Lionsgate Television)

Now, let’s pretend a single thing went awry and he gets caught, either in the act or later on in the series. It’s a textbook example of desertion — case closed. The consequences would have likely netted him jail time. Execution is out of the question — it’s only happened once since the Civil War and Draper returned to the United States instead of defecting to North Korea. Plus, by the time the show kicks off, he’d likely have a good lawyer that’d push for misconduct on the part of the medical center for simply assuming he was Lt. Draper since he never outright says it during his time in the Army. The “impersonating an officer” charge could also be fought since he likely received heavy brain trauma after the blast and everyone started calling him Lt. Draper.

Without a doubt, such a revelation would destroy his career. Everything he gets in the show is based off the mutual respect from his boss, Roger Sterling, a retired Naval officer of World War II. Sure, he actually earned the Purple Heart and did serve in Korea, but Sterling would fire him for breaking the honor among veterans. At one point, Sterling even goes on a rant about how he left his cushy career before advertising because one of coworkers was also in the Army but was a coward — he values integrity.

In the first season, Pete Campbell, a junior executive, finds out everything about his past but takes it to the other head of the company who dismisses the accusation – despite him having all of the proof.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army looks at new ways to retain these field experts

Senior warrant officers from around the Army congregated to discuss talent management on day two of the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Englen of the Army Talent Management Task Force served on a panel of five distinguished senior warrant officers to discuss a series of personnel reforms designed to help acquire, develop, employ, and retain the right talent among Army warrant officers. Warrant officers are subject-matter experts in their field, serving in diverse roles across the Army from flying helicopters to conducting offensive cyber operations.

Every community within the Army has its own unique talent management challenges. The warrant officer community, in particular, has struggled to retain the most experienced warrant officers.


“In 1991, we had 1,500 warrant officers with over twenty years of warrant officer experience. Today, that number is just 350, even though we still have the same number of warrant officers,” said Englen.

Since arriving to the task force over one year ago, Englen has helped the Army begin to address talent management issues specifically impacting warrant officers.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

“When an active duty warrant officer retires, he or she is placed on the regular Army retired list, unlike commissioned officers, who are placed on the reserve Army list,” said Englen.

“Title 37 of the U.S. Code prevents dual compensation of retirement and reserve pay,” said Englen, “But by offering our retiring warrant officers Selective Reserve (SELRES) status, we can allow them to serve in the Reserve component following their retirement from active duty without causing them to lose their retirement pay.”

Doing so would help the Army address at least part of its manning shortfalls in the Army Reserve, which is currently short approximately 4,000 warrant officers.

The warrant officer community is also incredibly diverse. Each career field, said Englen, requires its own unique approach to talent management.

Aviators, for instance, can require over a year’s worth of training before they can be assigned to their units. Under the current system, many warrant officers are promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2) either during or shortly after flight school. The task force is drafting a new policy to “reset” a warrant officer’s date of rank once they complete flight school, allowing time to develop them as a warrant officer (WO1) for two years before being promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2).

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

Other communities, such as Special Forces and air defense, do not require extensive warrant officer training timelines, as they draw from their respective communities.

Instead, Englen noted, these communities are working to directly commission senior non-commissioned officers in the grades of sergeant first class through first sergeant to the rank of chief warrant officer two (CW2).

The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps. Some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

These talent management initiatives aimed at the warrant officer community are expected to begin early 2020.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

When General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. was named the next Air Force Chief of Staff, it was extraordinary for many reasons. As 2020 comes to a close, we examine this leader who was recently named one of Time’s most influential 100 people. 

Brown was formerly the commander of the Pacific Air Forces and also led as Executive Director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff and Deputy Commander of United States Central Command.  Brown’s legacy of strong leadership and experience made him a strong candidate for the Air Force’s highest position of authority. As the first Black chief of staff to command a force, it was a historic moment for America. His confirmation was cheered far and wide across the country and the military community.  

He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a historic 98-0 vote. 

After being officially sworn in as the new Air Force Chief of Staff, he talked about the men and women of color who came before him saying, “It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force Chief of Staff.” Watching in the wings of his swearing in ceremony were the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black unit of fighter pilots who served bravely and faithfully during World War II. The Airmen willingly fought for their country despite facing deep racism and ongoing segregation, creating a legacy that still reverberates today.  

Despite the tremendous honor of being nominated as the next Chief of Staff for the Air Force, the appointment came with a tremendous weight for Brown. In his acceptance speech he shares that he alone cannot “fix centuries of racial discrimination in our country” and that despite the hope his nomination brought, it also carries a burden for him. 

Months before his swearing in, Brown released a raw and direct video on social media in June of 2020 following the death of George Floyd captured on video at the hands of police. It was a event that sent shockwaves across a country already experiencing deep divisiveness on matters of race and the current pandemic. Brown’s decision to make a statement was nothing short of courageous and admirable. In an interview with Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post, Brown shared that his video response to the killing of George Flloyd was promoted by his son Ross. He told Lamothe that he became emotional over their shared experiences as Black men. Despite the looming confirmation hearing and not knowing what current leadership was going to say, he knew what he himself needed to do. 

After looking into the camera, he told viewers exactly what was on his mind. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.” He also went on to share experiences where, despite wearing the same flight suit as his fellow pilots, he was questioned on whether he was one or not. 

The video has now been seen by millions of people. Not long after his response and other military leaders’ similar and united statements, the Air Force announced plans to review racial disparities within the force as it pertained to military justice. It was a step in the right direction. 

Since taking the leadership role of the Air Force, he has focused on change and innovation, from the bottom up. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he encouraged young airmen in particular to focus on creativity and to use their voice without fear of consequences for speaking up. His message of unity and collaboration from the junior enlisted to the ranking highest officer is another reason he has already established himself well among Airmen and the military as a whole.  

air force chief of staff
Maxwell AFB; Ala. – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown; Jr.; speaks with senior leadership and Air University faculty on his vision for AU; Aug. 26; 2020. (US Air Force photograph by Melanie Rodgers Cox/Released)

Seeing Brown’s name among the expected celebrities, athletes presidents and Supreme Court Justices – is an impressive feat in itself. But it is the history and struggles he endured within his story that brings the significance home to so many who are desperate for change. Brown is a symbol of not just courage and strength but also, hope. Hopefully one day soon, we won’t be celebrating firsts anymore. Instead, diversity and inclusion will just be exactly who we are, not just who we promised to be.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump just pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi prisoner

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.


How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.

The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.

But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Behenna after his 2014 parole.

It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.

After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.

But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.

The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

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That time British Intelligence hacked al-Qaeda just to mess with them

One might assume that an international intelligence apparatus like Britain’s MI6 would wreak havoc when hacking into a terrorist-affiliated website. The truth is they did little more than likely annoy al-Qaeda after hacking a recruiting website. The result wasn’t exactly devastating unless you’re someone who hates cupcakes.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
Who could hate these? They’re ADORABLE. (Image by Michael Baragwanath from Pixabay)

While it’s hard to imagine even the most hardcore of Islamist extremist terrorists hating cupcakes (though it’s even harder to imagine one of them eating one like the adorable animal cupcakes pictured above), whether they made MI6’s infamous cupcakes is unknown – but they definitely had the recipe.

In 2011, the UK’s external intelligence service was in an all-out information war with al-Qaeda and the terrorist organization’s affiliate groups. In particular, Her Majesty’s secret service was looking to disrupt the activities of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its effort to recruit “lone wolf” attackers abroad. One of the ways it recruited disgruntled Westerners was through the use of its online magazine, called “Inspire.”

 

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
New rule: everyone who wakes up with the sun to say, “Guys, today let’s be inspired by Al-Qaeda” gets droned. (Image by Daniel Ankele from Pixabay)

But when avid readers of “Inspire” went to download the June 2011 Issue to read “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef” actually downloaded a semi-unintelligible computer code. The code still revealed a recipe, but it had nothing to do with your mom’s kitchen and everything to do with some cupcakes that *might* be described as “da bomb.”

MI6 reportedly hacked the website and replaced “Inspire” with a number of episodes for delicious cupcakes, including a recipe featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show dubbed “The Best Cupcakes in America” as well as a number of original recipes from Ohio-based cupcaker Main Street Cupcakes. Al-Qaeda initiates came looking for bomb-making information and instead received a flavor explosion, with varieties such as white rum cake with buttercream frosting, rocky road, and a delicious-sounding mojito flavor.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
“Inshallah you checked them with a toothpick before removing them from the oven.” (Image by Larissa Kozemekin from Pixabay)

On top of removing the bomb-making instructions, intelligence analysts replaced articles by Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on “What to Expect in Jihad.” Both MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had been planning on disrupting the publication and dissemination of the magazine since they discovered its creation. The western allies have deployed a number of cyber weapons to disrupt al-Qaeda’s information warfare operations.

Although the CIA and MI6 were able to successfully put off the publication of “Inspire,” the full issue and more issues were published immediately anyway. The executive editor of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s signature magazine, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone-strike in Yemen just a few months later.

Feature image: MGM

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US Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
Artist’s rendering from Air Force Research Lab


The Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons able to incinerate enemy targets from the sky, service officials said.

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to precisely incinerate targets without causing a large explosion – and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at,” Zacharias said.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force leaders said.

Air Force weapons developers are also working on the guidance mechanisms to enable laser weapons to stay on-track on a particular target, Zacharias added.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Zacharias explained that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology, he added.

“The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,” Zacharias said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

A key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion.

Another advantage is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.

Drones Fire Lasers

Air Force drones will also one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.

When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.

Zacharias also said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.

Laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.

For instance, a key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion. This would be of particular relevance, for example, in air attack such as the current campaign against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.

ISIS fighters are known to deliberately blend in among civilians, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint enemy targets without endangering innocent civilians. Precision attacks without an explosion, therefore, would provide a useful additional tactical option.

Zacharias said laser-armed drones could likely provide an impactful part of an on-the-move arsenal of weapons.

“You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts – of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well,” Zacharias said.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Firing laser weapons would certainly provide a different option than a 100-pound, explosive, tank and building-killing Hellfire missile.

Although firing lasers from drones is expected to be more complicated than arming fighter jets or aircraft with lasers, the existing development of laser weapon technology is quite likely to inform drone-laser development as well.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a drone will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacarias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Proposal over Amazon facial recognition software fails to pass

Two proposals concerning Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software failed to pass at the company’s shareholders meeting on May 22, 2019, according to reports from CNET and TechCrunch.

The first proposal would have prevented the Seattle tech giant from selling the software — called Rekognition — to the government, while the other would have required an independent human rights group to study the technology.

The decision marks a contentious turning point in a saga that put Amazon at odds with activist shareholders and civil rights groups, which have vocally opposed government use of facial recognition due to privacy concerns.


But with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos controlling a significant, though not a majority, stake in the company he founded and many large institutional shareholders holding similar voting rights as Bezos, it was a long shot that the proposals would pass.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Rekognition, which Amazon launched in 2016, can identify people and objects in both videos and photos and has been used by government groups as well as media organizations. Amazon said the software has been used to rescue victims of human trafficking, for example, and Sky News used it to identify celebrities attending the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.

But the technology has been heavily criticized by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has raised concerns over Rekognition’s accuracy and its potential to be used for surveillance. Last July, the organization found that the facial recognition software incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress with images of people who had been arrested. Prior to May 22, 2019’s meeting, the ACLU published an open letter urging shareholders to back both proposals.

Amazon has said in a previous statement to Business Insider that it has been working with working with academics, researchers, customers, and lawmakers to balance the “benefits of facial recognition technology with the potential risks.”

The decision comes after Amazon unsuccessfully requested that the SEC block the proposals in January. The company is expected to share a filing with the final vote tally later this week.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why United States NASA, China, and UAE are all going to Mars at the same time

NASA just launched its Mars rover Perseverance, along with its first interplanetary helicopter, perched atop an Atlas V5 rocket.


But NASA wasn’t alone….In the past two weeks, space agencies from China and the United Arab Emirates also launched missions to Mars.

These spacecraft will travel over 400 million kilometers before all reaching their destination around February 2021.

But in the past 13 years, only seven rockets sent missions to the red planet. So, why are so many attempts to reach Mars all happening right now?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is Russia trying to hide its massive military exercise from NATO?

Russia has been accused by the head of NATO of blocking the alliance from properly observing next week’s “Zapad” military exercises, when about 100,000 Russian troops are expected to mobilize on the EU’s eastern borders.


Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said an offer from Russia and Belarus for three of their experts to attend some aspects of the huge exercise fell short of the Kremlin’s international obligations.

“Briefings on the exercise scenario and progress; opportunities to talk to individual soldiers; and overflights over the exercise. This is something that is part of the Vienna document, an agreement regulating transparency and predictability relating to military exercises,” said Stoltenberg, during a visit to an Estonian military base, where British troops have been stationed since March.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“So we call on Russia to observe the letter and the spirit of the Vienna document. Transparency and predictability are even more important when tensions are high to reduce the risks of misunderstandings and incidents. NATO remains calm and vigilant and we are going to keep Estonia and our allies safe.”

Under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules in the Vienna document, nations conducting exercises involving more than 13,000 troops must notify other countries in advance and be open to observers.

Russia and Belarus claim the Zapad (“west”) exercises, which will be held in Belarus and parts of western Russia between Sept. 14-20 will involve about 12,700 troops.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

NATO, however, believes many more troops are set to be involved. The prime minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, who joined Stoltenberg at the base in Tapa, about 75 miles (120km) from the Russian border, confirmed that his government believed about 100,000 Russian soldiers would be mobilized during the exercise.

He said, “I would like to say that we are concerned about the nature and lack of transparency of the exercise. Our attitude remains cool and confident. Along with our allies, we will monitor the exercise very closely and remain ready for every situation.”

There has been speculation that Russia could use the upcoming exercises as a cover for the permanent movement of troops and equipment into Belarus or even an offensive against NATO states, something Moscow has adamantly denied.

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia claims that that western concerns about Zapad are unfounded, saying the war games will be purely defensive and are designed to help practice dealing with a terrorist threat in the future. The country holds the Zapad exercises every four years.

Tensions following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 have, however, seen the establishment of four multinational battle groups in three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – as well as Poland, amounting to approximately 4,500 troops, including those from the UK.

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, told reporters in Estonia, “We are not changing our military posture because of the Zapad exercise, but NATO has only implemented important changes in our military posture in response to a more assertive Russia as seen developing in recent years, with more Russian troops close to our borders, more Russian equipment, and more exercises. And not least, of course, the use of military force against a neighbor, Ukraine.”

He added that while he saw no imminent threat to NATO states, that the battle groups’ presence sent a strong message “that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.”

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