As the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program barrels toward its final major testing process before full-rate production, program leaders say a much-discussed comparison test between the beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II and the new 5th-generation fighter is very much still in planning and could kick off as soon as April 2018.
In a roundtable discussion with reporters at the F-35 Joint Program Office headquarters near Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, the director of the program said the final test and evaluation plan is still being constructed. That will determine, he said, when the A-10 vs. F-35 test begins, and whether it happens in the main test effort or in an earlier, more focused evaluation.
“The Congress has directed the [Defense Department] to do comparison testing, we call it,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter said. “I wouldn’t call it a flyoff; it’s a comparison testing of the A-10 and the F-35. And given that the department was given that task … that is in [the] operational test and evaluation plan.”
Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOTE, is set to begin for the F-35 in September 2018. But two new increments of preliminary testing were recently added to the calendar to evaluate specific capabilities, Winter said.
The first increment, which was completed in January and February 2018, took place at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska and evaluated the ability of the aircraft to perform in extreme cold weather conditions, with a focus on the effectiveness of alert launches. The results of those tests have yet to be made public.
The second increment, set to begin in April 2018, will focus on close-air support capabilities, reconnaissances, and limited examination of weapons delivery, Winter said. The testing is expected to take place at Edwards Air Force Base in California and other ranges in the western United States.
Questions surrounding the F-35’s ability to perform in a close-air support role are what prompted initial interest in a comparison between the aging A-10 “Warthog” and the cutting-edge fighter in the first place.
The requirement that the two aircraft go up against each other was included as a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 amid congressional concerns over plans to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35.
In an interview with Military.com in 2017, Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, then-director of the F-35 program’s integration office, said he expected the A-10 to emerge as a better CAS platform in a no-threat environment.
But the dynamics would change, he said, as the threat level increased.
“As you now start to build the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles of the target.”
LUTSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces have captured an armed man who was holding 13 people hostage inside a bus in the northwestern town of Lutsk, ending a 12-hour ordeal.
No one was injured.
An armored personnel carrier with Ukrainian special forces pulled up alongside the bus around 9:30 p.m. seconds after an explosion created a bright flash near the vehicle, a video posted by an onlooker showed:
Maksym Kryvosh, a 44-year-old resident of Lutsk who has a criminal record and was once treated at a psychiatric center, was arrested. Kryvosh also went by the last name Plokhoy, which means “bad” in Russian.
Police said Kryvosh ranted against “the system” in his negotiations, called the nation’s oligarchs and officials “terrorists,” and demanded that people watch the 2005 documentary film Earthlings about the suffering endured by animals at farms, research labs, and other locations.
In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted a short video on Facebook recommending that people watch the documentary. Local media said Kryvosh was following the news about his hostage-taking on his smartphone. Zelenskiy deleted the video after Kryvosh’s capture.
Regional police chief Yuriy Kroshko said earlier in the day that Kryvosh had told police that he was armed and had a large amount of explosives with him.
He also claimed to have placed a bomb at another site in the city and said he could detonate it remotely.
The US Navy bragged on social media Tuesday morning that it currently has seven aircraft carriers underway, a major improvement over the situation in late October, when half the carrier fleet was in a non-deployable state.
“The Navy has 7 aircraft carriers underway today. NBD,” the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) tweeted Tuesday in a humble-brag; “NBD” is an acronym for “no big deal.”
Less than two months ago, the Navy had that many carriers stuck pier-side due to maintenance issues, preparation for mid-life overhauls, unexpected malfunctions, and new construction challenges.
On the East Coast, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) was winding up to a deployment after an extended maintenance availability.
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) was in the yard for its Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) pier-side, apparently in preparation for its mid-life overhaul.
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was in extended maintenance. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was down for an electrical malfunction.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was in an extended post-shakedown availability.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
And, on the West Coast, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was in maintenance, leaving only handful of the 11 carriers readily available.
Even with less than half of its carriers available, the Navy still had ready an unmatched carrier force, but the problem is that with that many ships in the yard, it makes it harder to meet the demand for carriers, important tools for the projection of American military power.
“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill. The combatant commanders want carriers,” Richard Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, said at that time.
Right now, the Truman is underway in the 6th Fleet area of operations while the Stennis, Ike, and Ford are all underway in the Atlantic. The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) are underway in the 3rd Fleet AOR, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) remains in the 5th Fleet AOR, the Navy told Insider.
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is forward-deployed in Japan, but it is currently in port.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On October 1, 2020, the United States Marine Corps activated its first new base since 1952. Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz will host roughly 5,000 Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force on the island of Guam. The Marines will relocate from their current station in Okinawa, Japan over the next five years. 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed at Camp Blaz while the remaining 3,700 Marines will serve as a rotational force.
The new Marine Corps strategy in the Pacific calls for a smaller, more agile and lethal force. “We have to spread out,” said the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. “We have to factor in Guam.” Camp Blaz will allow the United States to distribute its premiere amphibious fighting force across the Pacific. Operating from Guam, the Marine Corps will be able to respond to a wider array of aggressive actions from China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) is officially the largest navy in the world. While the United States more than doubles the PLAN in tonnage and outclasses it in quality, the threat of numbers cannot be ignored.
Camp Blaz is named for the late Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro Marine to reach the rank of general officer. Blaz was born on Guam on February 14, 1928 and lived through the Japanese occupation of the island during WWII. After the war, he attended the University of Notre Dame on a scholarship and commissioned as a Marine officer in 1951.
Over his 29 years of service, Blaz earned the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat “V” for valor, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross for his service in Vietnam. Following his retirement from the Corps in 1980, Blaz worked as a professor at the University of Guam. In 1984, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the delegate from Guam. He served in Congress until 1983 when he retired. Blaz died in 2014 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The new base that bears this Marine’s name solidifies the union between the Corps and the people of Guam. “As the Marine Corps presence on Guam grows, I am confident that we will live up to our motto of honor, courage, and commitment,” said Col. Bradley M. Magrath, Camp Blaz’s first base commander. “We will honor the history of the island of Guam, we will have the courage to defend it, and we will remain committed to preserving its cultural and environmental resources.” The Marine Corps plans to hold a formal activation ceremony in spring 2021.
Last year, the British Army made headlines when it said it wanted “snowflakes” in its ranks. This year, the Army is calling on social media addicts, binge-drinkers, and anyone else who spends their time desperately searching for a confidence boost, no matter how short-lived it may be.
The British Army, as of last fall, was still thousands of troops shy of its target of 82,000 fully-trained troops, with numbers still falling as more troops leave the service among an upswing in recruitment.
In an effort to boost its numbers, the British army is pushing forward with its “belonging” recruitment drive. The latest recruiting campaign, which came out Thursday, has a simple message: “Army confidence lasts a lifetime.”
British Army unveils latest recruiting campaign: ‘Army confidence lasts a lifetime’
The video targets people addicted to the gym, bar hopping, social media, and fashion, telling viewers that “lots of things will give you confidence … for a little while, but confidence that lasts a lifetime, there’s one place you’ll find that.”
The British Army is also putting out advertisements with collage images of muscles, emoji, applied cosmetics, and so on with captions like: “Confidence can be built for a summertime or it can last a lifetime” and “Confidence can last as long as a like or it can last a lifetime.”
The latest campaign is based, at least in part, on research done by The Prince’s Trust charity in 2018 that found that roughly 54% of 16-9 to 25-year-olds struggle with self-confidence and believe that this problem keeps them from reaching their true potential.
The British Ministry of Defense, according to The Independent, says that the ongoing recruitment campaign, which began in 2017 amid a steady drop in the size of the British armed forces, has been successful.
(Photo by U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Brett Miller, 116 Public Affairs Detachment)
Last year’s British Army recruitment drive, which controversially targeted “snowflakes,” “class clowns,” “selfie addicts,” “phone zombies,” and “me me me millenials,” reportedly resulted in tens of thousands of people signing up to join. While the force fell short of its annual recruiting goals, it saw the highest number of recruits in a decade start basic training last fall.
“With the 2020 campaign we want to highlight that a career in the Army not only provides exciting opportunities, challenges and adventure but it also gives you a lasting confidence that is hard to find in any other profession,” Col. Nick MacKenzie, the head of the British Army recruitment, said, according to the BBC.
Despite increases in recruitment, a positive change for the British Army, the force continues to face retention challenges that keep it from meeting its ambitions. The British armed forces shrank for the ninth year in a row last year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the US Army pursues accelerated modernization to meet the potential future demands of high-intensity warfighting against top adversaries like Russia and China, the service is searching for a new next-generation combat vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle produced by BAE Systems.
The Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program is the second highest priority for the recently-established Army Futures Command. This brand new four-star command is dedicated to the research and development of future weapons systems for this new era of great power competition.
“The Russians and the Chinese have used the last 15 years to modernize their forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV cross-functional team, told reporters Oct. 9, 2018, “We need to do the same.”
Replacing the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is the top priority for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program
The primary focus right now is replacing the Bradley with an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), although the requirements are still in the works, with Army officials noting that “all options are on the table.” The Army’s NGCV cross-functional team is looking for something lethal, survivable, and most importantly upgradeable so that it can continue to meet the Army’s needs for year’s to come, NGCV team leaders explained Tuesday at the 2018 Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.
The Army appears to be pursuing a vehicle that can be reconfigured for different missions, has an outstanding power-to-weight ratio for intensity-based and technological upgrades and modifications, and can wage war in both urban and rural environments to provide a deterrent force in Europe and beyond.
The program is expected to issue an official request for proposals in 2018, and companies will have around six months to prepare their offers. The NGCV program expects to field its new OMFV in 2026. This Futures Command team is also looking at a new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) option, Robotic Command Vehicle (RCV), and replacement for the M1 Abrams tank, but the expected delivery dates for these projects are farther out.
There are three full-scale OMFV concepts put foward by BAE Systems, Raytheon, and Rheinmetall, and General Dynamics on display at AUSA 2018, although there may be more potential designs later on when the official request for proposals is sent out. While the three concepts on the floor offer many similar features, each vehicle brings something unique to the table.
The CV90 Mark IV.
Characterizing it as a conversation starter, BAE Systems is offering the latest version of its proven combat vehicle — the CV90 Mark IV
There are 15 variants of the Combat Vehicle (CV) 90 in service in seven nations, so BAE Systems is coming to the table with the latest iteration of a proven vehicle. “We’re pretty proud of this vehicle,” a spokesman for the company told Business Insider at AUSA. “We brought this as our best way to start a conversation with the Army and help the Army help us figure out what it is that soldiers need.”
The strengths of this vehicle, according to its makers, include its growth potential and the mission-specific modularity and flexibility.
“On the left and right sides of it are boxes, they look like they are bolted on, those are weapons station modules,” the spokesman explained, “On [the left] side, you have a Spike missile module connected to the vehicle, and on the right side, you have a 7.62 coaxial machine gun with 2,000 ready rounds in the box.”
Those modular systems are all on attachment points, meaning that they could be swapped out for other modules, such as a Mark 19 grenade launcher, to suit the mission at hand. “It gives the Army, the unit commander, and the vehicle commander the maximum flexibility they need based on the mission,” he said, calling it “sexy.”
In addition to this flexibility, there is also growth potential in the vehicle weight. The vehicle has a maximum weight of 40 tons. The floor model weighed around 30 tons, allowing for the addition of extra armor and weapons systems should the intended mission require these modifications.
The CV90 Mark IV comes with a number of other potentially desirable features and capabilities as well
The vehicle’s 35 mm cannon can be easily modified should the Army show an interest in a 50 mm main gun, something Col. Jim Schirmer, the project lead for the NGVC, told reporters on Oct. 9, 2018, that the Army is seriously considering.
The BAE Systems vehicle also features a drive-by-wire system for manned and unmanned missions, advanced data transfer capabilities, enhanced survivability as it sits low to the ground (hard to see, hard to hit), advanced 360 surveillance, smart targeting systems, airburst munitions for counter-drone warfare, and active protection systems that can be modified as the Army presents a clearer picture of what it expects.
the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Raytheon and Rheinmetall joined forces to create the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, presenting it at AUSA 2018 as a ready-right-now OMFV option.
Described as a “not business as usual” project, the Lynx KF 41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is the byproduct of a partnership between Rheinmetall, which has an extensive knowledge of vehicles, and Raytheon, a company that excels at integrated electronic systems.
The Raytheon team emphasized modularity for mission-specific modifications in a brief discussion with BI on the floor at AUSA 2018. “The whole thing is very innovative. You can take this configuration, remove the top, make it into another configuration, and you can do that overnight,” Kim Ernzen, vice president of Land Warfare Systems at Raytheon, explained.
“With a 10-ton crane, you can lift the roof plate and the turret off the base chassis, and you can re-roll the vehicle,” Philip Tomio, the vice president of strategy and marketing for the Vehicle Systems Division at Rheinmetall, said. “You can turn it into a command post, an ambulance, a repair and recovery vehicle, a joint fires reconnaissance variant. You have a number of options.”
She revealed to BI that during recent trials, crews were able to change the configuration in roughly three hours.
Raytheon and Rheinmetall are promising a “modern fighting vehicle that will keep US soldiers far ahead of battlefield threats for decades to come.”
The survivability of the vehicle can be changed in accordance with the demands of the fighting environment. With roughly 20 tons of configurable payload, the chassis can support additions up to 55 tons for high-intensity combat against an adversary like the Russians. And the main gun can be modified from a 35 mm cannon to a 50 mm gun as needed.
The Lynx IFV supports up to nine dismounts with a three-man crew, as well as as next-generation thermal sights, Coyote unmanned aircraft, active protection systems to counter a variety of asymmetric threats, a fully-integrated situational awareness sensor suite, and an extended-range TOW missile system, among other features.
The spokespeople for this OMFV project repeatedly stressed that the Lynx would be manufactured in the US, supporting the US industrial base and creating jobs. But perhaps more importantly, the vehicle is a finished product, not a concept, that could be ready to go on a moment’s notice.
General Dynamics Griffin armored fighting vehicle.
General Dynamics brought its Griffin III demonstrator, a combat system featuring elements of the Ajax armored vehicle used in the UK
Produced by the company the makes the M1 Abrams tank, also slated for replacement, General Dynamics’ Griffin III features lethality, modularity, and growth options, among other capabilities.
In terms of lethality, the modular turret features a 50 mm main gun with the option to modify the weapon to a 30 mm cannon if necessary and the ability to fire at an 85 degree angle, a capability requested by the Army for urban combat. The 50 mm gun is significantly more powerful than the Bradley’s current 25 mm cannon.
Supporting a squad with five to eight people and a two-to-three-man crew, the newest evolution of the Griffin I and II is, according to General Dynamics, focused on “adaptability” through the company’s emphasis on a modifiable, open architecture. At the same time, the vehicle features a wide variety of integrated systems with a common operating system, specifically active protection systems, laser warning systems, 360-degree surround view, and a deepstrike package, Mike Peck, the director of enterprise business development at General Dynamics told BI at AUSA 2018.
“All of that is integrated in there. You don’t have to keep adding boxes to the vehicle,” he explained.
The Griffin is said to have a lot of “unique” features designed to trigger additional conversations with the Army going forward.
The Griffin III is meant to satisfy the Army’s vague requirements for the OMFV as they are right now, but it could be changed.
“We wanted to show them what they asked for and then ask, ‘Do you like it, or would you change something?'” Peck explained to BI. “If so, the next iteration — Griffin IV — will have those modifications on it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.
The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.
State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.
The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.
The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.
Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.
Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”
President Donald Trump has reportedly removed restraints on how and when the US can launch cyberattacks on its adversaries — and it could make attacks on other countries more likely.
Trump signed an order Aug. 15, 2018, reversing a series of Obama-era rules, which outlined a process of interagency approval before the US could launch cyberoffensives, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said one administration official briefed on the decision described the change as an “offensive step forward.” The change is meant to support military operations and deter foreign interference in US elections. The Trump administration is under pressure to show it is taking threats of foreign interference seriously in light of mounting evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election.
The Obama-era rules, known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, meant agencies that wanted to launch a cyberattack had to gain approval from groups across the federal government. This was to ensure that existing defense operations were not harmed by the launch of a new attack.
Former President Barack Obama.
Michael Daniel, who served as the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator under President Barack Obama, said the change could do more harm than good. “You could end up having an operation wreck a carefully crafted multiyear espionage operation to gain access to a foreign computer system,” he told The Journal.
The new policy applies to the Defense Department as well as other federal agencies, an administration official told The Journal. The person declined to say which other agencies would be affected.
Sources did not tell The Journal which rules were replacing the Obama-era directive, citing the classified nature of the process; as The Journal pointed out, the Obama-era rules were classified as well and were made public only in the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks.
The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II celebrated his 102nd birthday on Thursday.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole has remained active, attending commemorative events in recent years including April ceremonies for the raid’s 75th anniversary at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
“I’m holding together,” Cole said Thursday by telephone, adding with a chuckle: “The only thing is I need a lot of WD-40.”
President Donald Trump called the Ohio native in July as Cole was recovering from a fall, to check on him and thank him for his service.
“It was a nice surprise,” Cole recounted. “He was very polite and cheerful. It was very upbeat.”
Cole is originally from Dayton, and now lives in Comfort, Texas. He has a daughter who lives nearby and two sons.
He said in April he hadn’t expected to be the last Doolittle Raider survivor because he was older than most on the mission. Cole attributed his longevity to being an optimist and living a life of “moderation.”
160418-N-HI816-001 WASHINGTON (April 18, 2016) This infographic shares the history of the Doolittle Raid – how America struck back after Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy graphic by Annalisa Underwood/Released)
He was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the bombing attack less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bold raid is credited with lifting U.S. spirits and helping change the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Three Raiders died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Cole parachuted and he and other Raiders were helped to safety by Chinese partisans.
The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier, and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.
Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.
“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.
Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Jan. 15 near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.
The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials.
Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.
Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.
The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”
But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.
Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order.
The B-2 is more threatening.
It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram (30,000-pound) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.
The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.
The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.
The Marines announced on Jan. 14 the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.
The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.
Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.
The Army’s is looking for new weapons and capabilities for Stryker armored combat vehicles in addition to the improved hulls and 30mm cannons already being added to the vehicles.
The effort to up-gun Strykers, typically equipped with .50-cals, Mk. 19 grenade launchers, or M240Bs, has been going on since Sep. 2013. That was when the Army first announced tests of the 30mm weapons.
“(This) maintains a lethal overmatch that we want to make sure our forces have,” Army Lt. Col. Scott DeBolt told Army.mil at a 2014 demonstration of the 30mm cannon. “It has lethality, mobility and protection, and survivability. When we have a firefight, we don’t want it to last 40 minutes. It’d be nice if it lasted 40 seconds. This vehicle provides that 40-second fight.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Javelins would replace TOW missiles on the M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle or be fielded as a new anti-tank Stryker variant. The TOW missiles currently deployed on M1134s have a longer range but smaller warheads than Javelin missiles. Also, the Javelin can target helicopters and surface vessels that the TOW missile would be unlikely to hit.
Regardless of what the Army decides is the Stryker’s next weapon configuration, the effort to upgrade flat-bottomed Strykers with V-shaped hulls will continue. The improved hulls grant increased protection for the crew during mine and IED strikes.
Ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched HELLFIRE missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment.
The war against ISIS has depleted existing inventory of the weapon and generated a fast-growing national and international demand for HELLFIRE missiles, Army officials told Scout Warrior.
“Production of HELLFIRE has increased for quantities ordered in Fiscal Year 14 and Fiscal Year 15,” Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said in a written statement.
As the principle manufacturer of HELLFIRE missiles, the Army provides the weapon to national and international entities to include the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy arsenals, among others. Overall, there as many as 15 or more international customers using HELLFIRE missiles, many of them partners in the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS.
While Army officials did not provide specific numbers of production increases or plans to provide particular allied nations with HELLFIREs, the Pentagon has requested $1.8 billion in its 2017 budget for munitions, bombs and missiles needed to replenish or maintain stockpiles and sustain the attacks against ISIS.
As part of a separate effort, the Air Force did request and receive $400 million in reprogrammed dollars to address an air-to-ground munitions shortage, particularly with Hellfire missiles.
“The Air Force worked with the Army to re-prioritize HELLFIRE missile deliveries to the Air Force, requested additional funding for HELLFIRE missiles, reduced aircrew training expenditures, and is working a procurement plan to increase production to reconstitute munitions stocks as quickly as possible,” an Air Force official told Scout Warrior.
While precision-guided air-to-ground weapons are typically needed during aerial bombing efforts, they are of particular urgent value in the ongoing attacks on ISIS. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision all the more pressing.
In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.
In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets.
HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms
These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Army’s Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Army’s AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe.
The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance – referred to as “fire and forget” – or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or “painted” by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy.
There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses what’s called a “tandem warhead” with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target.
The “Blast-Frag” warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain.
The “Metal Augmented Charge” warhead improves upon the “Blast-Frag” weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The “Metal Augmented Charge” is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets.
The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to “lock-on” to a target before or after launch.
The AGM-114R warhead is described as a “Multi-Purpose” explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area.
The AGM-114R or “Romeo” variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile.
The “Multi-Purpose” warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse “blast-effects” with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters.
“The “Romeo” variant is an example of how these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future,” O’Boyle said.
Additional HELLFIRE Uses
Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. The Navy has fired a Longbow HELLFIRE from a Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to increase its lethality; the Navy’s 2017 budget request asks for Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, beginning with the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, Navy officials told Scout Warrior. Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.