The Air Force's search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

The Air Force is 10 days into its “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where four aircraft — AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine — have been strutting their stuff.


Air Force pilots already have flown basic surface attack missions in the A-29 and AT-6, according to the service, and conducted “familiarization flights” in the Scorpion and AT-802L as part of the month-long event.

The live-fly exercises will move into combat maneuver scenarios and weapons drops, some of which have already happened.

“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement August 9. Goldfein, along with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, stopped by the event, which the service has been putting together for months.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
A Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano A-29 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner

How service leaders plan to evaluate the performance of four very different aircraft — from jet to turboprop plane to an armored cropduster — is still to be determined.

The aircraft were on static display for leaders, including Air Combat Command commander Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, to check out.

Goldfein even flew in the AT-6 and the A-29, according to reports.

“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Wilson said of the experiment, dubbed OA-X. “Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner.

Goldfein added, “We are determining whether a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”

The service has said the prolonged conflict in the Middle East, with the Islamic State and other extremist groups extending their influence in the region, is the impetus for buying another plane — just one that won’t cost taxpayers a fortune.

“We want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in,” Bunch said in March.

But no matter what the outcome, some in Washington, DC are already pleasantly surprised the Air Force has become more hands-on in potential future weapons and aircraft buying strategies.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

“The light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, provides an example for how rapid acquisition and experimentation can help our military procure the needed capabilities more quickly, more efficiently, and more affordably than we have in the past,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain said.

“Our adversaries are modernizing to deploy future capabilities aimed at eroding the US military advantage — and reversing that trend will require a new, innovative approach to acquisition and procurement,” he said in a statement August 9.

The Arizona Republican in January released his white paper assessment on how the Defense Department should move forward in military spending.

The former Navy pilot stressed that, while the Air Force should sustain its A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter fleet for close-air support, “the Air Force should procure 300 low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. USAF photo by Christopher Okula

McCain on August 9 stressed his committee has been supportive of the action, and “included $1.2 billion in authorized spending for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.”

“I am encouraged to see the Air Force using the rapid acquisition authorities that Congress has given the Department of Defense in recent defense authorization bills,” he said. “The light attack aircraft will be an integral part of building our military capacity to combat current threats, and this experiment is a new model for quickly getting our warfighters the capabilities they need to bring the fight to the enemy.”

The event is scheduled to run through August 31.

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Iraqi security forces move in to liberate West Mosul

Since operations began over the weekend to retake West Mosul from two years of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, Iraqi security forces have already retaken more than 125 square kilometers – more than 48 square miles – of ISIS-held territory near the city, Pentagon director of press operations Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.


The announcement of the Iraqi forces moving in on West Mosul came from the Iraqi government, the spokesman added.

Five Villages Liberated

Following their retaking of the eastern half of Mosul in recent weeks, the Iraqi forces moving in to liberate the western region are on the west side of the Tigris River and south of Mosul’s airport, he said, noting that they have liberated five villages in the past couple of days.

The most immediate focus is retaking the village of Abu-Saif in the southwestern region of the area surrounding Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are working while continuing to conduct defensive operations.

“The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul comes as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lived for more than two years under ISIS oppression in West Mosul, during which time ISIS has committed a number of horrible atrocities, terrorizing the people of Mosul,” Davis emphasized.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from ISIS. | DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Proven as Capable

“Over the course of the past two years, and in particular in the past four months in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force,” he noted.

The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Iraqi operations with advice and assistance in addition to airstrikes in the past 24 hours, the captain said. “The coalition has conducted a total of eight strikes with a total of 59 engagements using 34 munitions in support of the operations to liberate Mosul,” he added.

While the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is the focal point in that country, 450 American service members are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, Davis said, adding that number does not include an undisclosed total of special operations forces deployed to Iraq to work with Iraq’s counterterrorism service.

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US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

North Korea has made preparations for yet another missile test within the coming days, US officials have told Fox News.


“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said an unnamed official. Another official told Fox that a US WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer” plane would patrol the area to detect possible nuclear activity.

The Pentagon, as well as its Japanese and South Korean counterparts, has been closely monitoring North Korea after a string of high-profile and alarming moves within its nuclear infrastructure.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

Most recently, Japan detected two missile launches in North Korea that exploded “within seconds” after takeoff, CNN reported. Before that, North Korea tested a “saturation attack” — a salvo of four missiles meant to overwhelm US and allied missile defenses — with much more success.

Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider that North Korea’s ultimate intention with its nuclear program is to create a thermonuclear weapon that can hit the mainland US.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

The increased pace of tests in 2017 shows North Korea is perhaps more serious than ever about hitting this goal, which it is increasingly moving closer to achieving.

Meanwhile, the US has openly floated military action against North Korea, which experts tell Business Insider could easily cost millions of lives and result in the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

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The 11 coolest high-tech military projects happening right now

Technology helps give American troops an advantage on the battlefield, and DoD is working on new stuff all the time. Here are 11 of the coolest things they’re working on right now:


1. Drones that can fly 45 mph

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Photo: YouTube/DARPAtv

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants drones that can race their way through enemy-held buildings or disaster areas without hitting anything, and they’re pretty successful so far. A modified drone hit 45 mph in a test and the drones can navigate obstacle courses at lower speeds.

2. Robot cockroaches

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Photo: YouTube/UC Berkeley

Real cockroaches can squeeze through tiny gaps and scurry quickly through hard to reach areas. A lab in Berkeley is working on the Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms, a robot based on cockroaches. At Harvard, researchers are working on tiny microphones, cameras, and antennas so the robot could beam intelligence to soldiers.

3. Self-steering parachutes that don’t need GPS

Units in the field sometimes have to rely on air drops for supplies and they need the drops to be as accurate as possible. To make sure supplies arrive on target, the Army is developing the Joint Precision Airdrop Progam that uses small motors to steer a parachute. The onboard computer figures out how to navigate to the target location by scanning the ground below and comparing it to an onboard map, no GPS required.

4. Swarm robots

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

The Navy is experimenting with swarms of autonomous drones. Swarmboat attacks, where lots of autonomous boats attack an enemy ship at once, were tested successfully in 2014 in Virginia, and the Navy is working on swarmdrones that can be fired out of cannons.

5. Quick-response close air support

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Illustration: DARPA

Close air support allows troops to call in airplanes and helicopters to attack enemy ground forces. With the current tactics and resources, it generally takes 30 to 60 minutes for pilots to get to the fight and drop their bombs. Persistent Close Air Support, or PCAS, looks to drop this to six minutes by allowing ground fighters to tap a point on a digital map and have the pilot immediately receive the geo coordinates along with a flight plan and bombing solution.

6. On-demand satellite launches

Airborne Launch Assist Space Access is a convoluted name for a program, but it has a tantalizing promise: satellites in orbit within 24 hours of a request for less than $1 million. The satellites would be placed in a rocket attached to a jet. The jet would then fly to the upper atmosphere and release the rocket, and its satellite, into orbit.

7. Soldier super senses

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Illustration: DARPA

Squad X core technology services aims to give troops better situational awareness by linking them into all the sensors on the battlefield, including new ones mounted on the troops themselves. Squad leaders would be able to see the status of their squad, video feeds from nearby drones and aircraft, and targets in the area.

8. Intuitive prosthetics

HAPTIX, Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces, is working to make prosthetics that not only work like biological limbs, but feel like biological limbs. This should allow amputees to do more things more quickly with their prosthetics and even allow more amputees to return to combat. (The video above shows a soldier testing a prototype arm while climbing a rock wall.)

9. Firefighting robots

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Photo: US Naval Research Laboratory Jamie Hartman

The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot, or SAFFiR, is designed to work on Navy ships fighting fires and identifying hot spots before they light off. In testing last November, SAFFiR successfully fought a small fire on a decommissioned ship.

10. Drones that hunt in packs

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Illustration: DARPA

The Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment, or CODE, is designed to reverse the human to robot ratio, taking it from multiple humans per drone to multiple drones per human.

11. Electricity as medicine

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Illustration: DARPA

The human body is designed to heal itself, but sometimes extreme trauma can cause the electrical impulses that control healing processes to go haywire. ElectRx will allow doctors to record nerve processes in healthy bodies and then prescribe stimuli to correct the electrical storm in patients with post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, autoimmune disorders, or even physical injury.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What will happen to the foreign ISIS fighters in Syria?

October 2019, US President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to pull the remaining US troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.

The move sent the fragmented country into a spiral, disrupting one of its few areas of stability. By withdrawing support from Kurdish forces in the area — which had helped the US combat ISIS — Trump opened them up to an oncoming offensive by Turkey.

Justifying the decision. Trump argued that US forces in the region had already “defeated” ISIS, and that therefore there was no need for them to stay in Syria.

This was, at best, only partly true.


While US-allied forces this year deprived ISIS of the territory it once controlled, the group still has as many as 18,000 fighters quietly stationed across Iraq and Syria, according to The New York Times.

Additionally, Kurdish-led fighters, known as The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had maintained control of tens of thousands of former ISIS members and their families, including about 70,000 women and children in a compound in the Syrian city of al-Hol, according to the Atlantic. Of those detainees, 11,000 of them are foreign nationals, according to the BBC.

The SDF has said it is holding more than 12,000 men suspected of being ISIS fighters across seven prisons it operates, estimating that more than 4,000 of those prisoners are foreign nationals, the BBC said.

The fate of those prisoners remains uncertain, particularly in the wake of the US pullout.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

ISIS

Turkey has taken over parts of Syria, and with it, ISIS prisoners

On Oct. 22, 2019, Russia and Turkey took advantage of the power vacuum that had been created and signed an agreement to expand their control in Syria and minimize Kurdish territory.

As part of the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards entered the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, pushing Kurdish forces back to 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border.

Turkey says it will use the reclaimed area to create a “buffer zone” along its border and will use the land to resettle more than 1 million Syrian refugees displaced by the war.

But as Turkey gains land in Syria, it has also taken on the task of figuring out what to do with former Islamic State detainees, many of whom are now under its control. Turkey has faced criticism in the past for its porous border, which allowed foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the Islamic State to begin with.

But Turkey doesn’t want to deal with them, and neither does the rest of the world 

According to a 2016 report by the World Bank, foreign ISIS fighters have been recruited from “all continents across the globe,” though it named Russia, France, and Germany as the top Western suppliers of ISIS’ foreign workforce.

Data from the Institute for the Study of War also indicated that significant portions of foreign fighters also came from European countries like the UK, Belgium, and France between December 2015 and March 2016.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

(ISW)

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, and warned that Turkey would not become “a hotel” for militants.

On Nov. 11, 2019, Turkey began deporting foreign nationals said to be linked to ISIS back to their home countries.

One of those foreign nationals was from the US, a spokesperson for Turkey’s interior minister said, though according to the BBC the man remained stranded at the Greek border after choosing not to return to the US. On Thursday morning, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said that the man would be brought to the US.

Turkey’s interior minister added the country was planning to deport “several more terrorists back to Germany” this week, and that legal proceedings against two Irish nationals and 11 French citizens captured in Syria were underway. A spokesperson for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that three men, five women and two children were being returned to Germany this week.

But many of those countries have not put a concrete policy in place for what to do with ISIS foreign fighters or their families that remain in displacement camps in Syria, or have refused to allow them to return.

Trump said in his statement in October 2019 that he discussed the issue of repatriating foreign fighters with France, Germany, and other European nations but they “did not want them and refused.”

Foreign nationals abroad are traditionally entitled to consular services abroad, though many European nations have been cautious about offering help to citizens who joined ISIS on national security grounds. Under international law, it is illegal to strip people of their citizenship if it will leave them stateless.

In April 2019, Germany approved a bill stripping dual nationals of their citizenship if they traveled overseas to fight in a foreign terror group, though the law does not apply to women and children. In June 2019, France passed legislation stating that it would repatriate French jihadists on a case-by-case basis.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

There are concerns that ISIS may take advantage of the uncertainty to regroup

But the UN has stood firm on pushing countries to take responsibility for their citizens.

“It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes — whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime — should face investigation and prosecution, with due process guarantees,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in June 2019.

“Foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards,” she added.

The UK is currently debating what to do about those who left the country to join ISIS. In February 2019, it stripped British-born Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria to become an ISIS bride at the age of 15, of her citizenship, citing national security risks. Begum has appealed the decision, and the UK government is said to be considering options for repatriating British members of ISIS held in prison camps in Syria.

As the West works through the complicated process of absorbing foreign fighters, Islamic State militants in Syria appear to be taking advantage of the chaos.

Last month, the SDF said ISIS fighters committed three suicide bombings on its positions in Raqqa as Kurdish fighters moved from their posts to respond to Turkish assault. And SDF General Mazloum Kobani has warned on Nov. 13, 2019 that the West should “expect” major attacks from Islamic State fighters who may be looking to capitalize on the chaos in order to regroup.

“The danger of the resurgence of ISIS is very big. And it’s a serious danger,” he told Sky News.

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

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4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.

Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.

1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.

Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.

Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.

2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”

The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.

3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.

Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.

Ok, he wasn’t an actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.

It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
No comfort for Chewbacca here.

Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.

For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Up late? 5 ways service members stay awake when the going gets tough

Exhaustion is the great equalizer. There comes a point for everyone when your body demands sleep, and if you aren’t willing to give it what it wants, things start to get rough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier on post in a combat zone or a new mom trying to make it through the day after a sleepless night of diaper changes and bottle-boiling, the sandman comes for us all.

If you’re desperate for sleep, the best thing you can do is rack out and get some. If that’s not an option, however, here are some of the ways service members stay alert long after exhaustion has set in. They’re not always the healthiest options, but hey, if we were that worried about our health, we’d be getting some rest.


The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

Instant coffee works best when you can chew it.

Caffeine

Ah, caffeine–the old standby. Whenever anyone’s tired, the first thing they think to do is pour themselves a nice hot cup of joe. Of course, in the field, that’s not always an option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix. Aside from the service-member favorite energy drinks, the most common field-sources of caffeine come in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Some even now come with sticks of caffeinated gum.

If you’ve got the time and the hot water, the small packets of instant coffee that come in MREs can make for a passable cup, but plenty of guys simply pour the pouches into their lips like a pinch of chewing tobacco. Might not be delicious, but it’ll help keep you up. Of course, too much caffeine poses a number of problems, including dehydration and nausea, so there are limits to what a lipper of coffee can do for you.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

Nicotine

Not just for smoke breaks, nicotine can also go far in helping to keep you conscious and alert during long nights on post or in the campus library. A lot of service members pick up cigarette or chewing tobacco habits during their time in uniform, in part because it offers something to do during long stretches of downtime, and in part because of the kick of energy you can get from a properly timed smoke break.

Of course, nicotine comes with a whole host of negative side effects, so choose your weapons wisely when waging war against your own exhaustion.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

Debate

Many service members stumble across this tactic on post: you and another person are stuck in one place for a while with nothing to do but look at the horizon, so you spark up a bit of conversation. Before you know it, you’re arguing about whether or not Darkwing Duck was a better show than Duck Tales and you’ve both managed to kill two hours of your shift… so powerful is the magic of useless debate.

It’s important not to let friendly debate boil over into a full-fledged fight, however, which can be a real challenge sometimes when you’re operating on little sleep.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

Get physical

Long after caffeine has failed you and nicotine is just giving you the shakes, there’s one more thing you can do to help you overcome the heaviest of eyelids: get up and get moving. Something as simple as hopping off your chair for a set of push-ups can get your blood pumping again. Go for a walk around the office or your house, karate chop some old boards in your garage, or haze yourself with a few sets of burpees.

And as an added bonus, you can meet the criteria for “getting physical” by getting into a fist fight with your buddy once your Ducktales debate gets out of hand.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

When your friends are counting on you, you do what you’ve got to do.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

Just ride it out

Eventually, if you ride out your exhaustion well into the next day, some of the worse symptoms will begin to subside. You’ll feel strange, hazy, and detached… but conscious nonetheless. The human body is capable of playing dirty to get you to do the things you need to do (like sleep), but it’s also good at letting you stay in the fight when it becomes clear the things you need to do aren’t in the cards.

Just like hunger pains will subside after a time, so too will the horrible weight of exhaustion… at least, for a few hours. Once that second wind subsides, you’ll be hurting worse than ever. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to rack out by then.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA is giving its $1 billion Jupiter mission a critical new lease on life

For the past two years, NASA’s Juno probe has studied planet Jupiter like no spacecraft before it.

The $1 billion mission has peeled back the giant planet’s thick cloud layers, searched for an elusive core, and returned dazzling images of colossal storms and chaotic cloud bands.

But all good things must come to an end, and Juno is no exception.


NASA planned to destroy the tennis-court-size robot by plunging it into Jupiter’s clouds sometime after July 2018. The rationale is similar to the Cassini probe’s recent demise: Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may be habitable to alien life, so carefully and deliberately ending the mission would prevent Juno from accidentally crashing into that moon. This would keep Europa’s ocean — which may have twice as much water as exists on Earth — from getting contaminated by any earthly microbes stuck to Juno.

However, the probe’s fiery end is now pushed back by at least three years to July 2021, according to NASA sources. Scientific work on the mission will continue through September 2022.

The extension is critical to one of Juno’s primary objectives. The probe has been mapping Jupiter as it orbits the gas giant with infrequent close passes called perijoves. Juno builds this map slice-by-slice using a suite of different instruments, including ones that record data about Jupiter’s gravitational field.

But due to lingering trouble with Juno’s propulsion system, by July 2018, the team will have completed only 14 of the 32 perijoves that it needs to finish mapping Jupiter.

Why Juno needs an extension to finish mapping Jupiter

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
Au00a0diagram of Jupiter’s orbits.
(Scott Bolton / Southwest Research Institute)

Spending too much time in Jupiter’s powerful radiation field can damage sensitive electronics. As a result, Juno orbits the planet on a highly elliptical path that keeps the probe mostly out of harm’s way, yet regularly zooms it over the cloud tops for detailed observations.

When Juno arrived in July 2016, mission managers had the spacecraft orbit Jupiter once every 53.5 days. In October 2016, they planned to fire up the probe’s engines and speed Juno’s orbits to once every 14 days — until the team discovered some sticky valves in the engine’s plumbing. NASA ultimately decided to play it safe and not risk using the engines, delaying Juno’s mapping pace nearly four-fold.

“During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit,” Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a 2017 press release. “The bottom line is a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno’s science objectives.”

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
A map of Jupiter made by merging partial Juno and Cassini spacecraft imaging data.
(Björn Jónsson)

One representative told Business Insider that the agency hasn’t “put anything out yet about that” when asked about the extension.

“NASA is close to being able to announce a decision on the possibility of continuing the Juno mission at Jupiter,” another representative said in an emailed statement. (NASA declined to provide additional information.)

Extending Juno’s flight will help the probe finish mapping Jupiter — a project that primarily focuses on the planet’s gravitational field. That data may reveal what is going on deep inside the giant yet mysterious world.

“It is very exciting for us to be able to complete the mission pretty much as it was originally proposed, except with longer orbits,” Frederic Allegrini, a staff scientist at Southwest Research Institute who works on the Juno mission, told Business Insider.

If Juno stays operational and productive over the next few years, NASA might again decide to keep flying the probe around Jupiter beyond July 2021.

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

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Watch this Army colonel take the ACFT in space

Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.

Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.

In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.

(U.S. Army)

Featured image: US Army

MIGHTY TACTICAL

No MRAP, no problem — this family truckster is operator AF

There was a time when cars (and many other things) were built to last as long as you maintained them. Unfortunately it seems as if planned obsolescence has become the manufacturing industry’s purview and buyers are brainwashed into believing that “new” is synonymous with “better.” Things are pretty disposable now. The general paradigm has gone from repair to replacement, depriving people of any willingness to fix what’s broken or modify an aging piece of equipment.


So what does this outta sight/outta mind mentality say about people who never learned how to repair anything? Their lack of resourcefulness, coping skills, and self-reliance is as obvious as Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish. Think about how they’ll react if things break down on a Great Depression-type scale once again. I’m talking all-out chaos with no power, no food, and no cell phones to post selfies every 10 minutes. Those same people will get desperate and look to strip the well prepared of everything they have. Time to start planning contingencies.

While many might think this 1994 Land Cruiser has passed its vehicular shelf life, owner Joe Galt is a dedicated prepper who doesn’t subscribe to the instant gratification mindset. This passionate family man stays up to snuff on the latest survival trends, studies the works of James Wesley Rawles, and wanted to turn his aging family SUV into a viable bug-out rig. Whether it’s bad weather, war, EMPs, or if the latest crop of Evergreen State College students ever get anywhere near a job on Capitol Hill, Joe has already planned his disaster response accordingly.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
The 1994 Land Cruiser FJ80 was found in a used car lot. (Recoil)

There are several reasons Galt felt a Land Cruiser of this ilk made for the perfect SHTF vehicle. It’s vintage, yes, but as previously stated, sometimes you’re better off that way. “The 1994 is a specific year I was looking for. I wanted the least amount of electronics possible,” he says. “I also wanted it because it had front and rear floating axles, front and rear coil spring suspension, front and rear disc brakes, ABS, and factory electronic lockers, which is a combination of components that, to this day, I think there’s very few produced today that have every one of those elements on it.”

Galt has actually owned several Land Cruisers over the years. This FJ80 version was picked up at a used car lot in remarkably good shape, and became the family SUV for many years. After clocking a total of about 250,000 miles and becoming increasingly concerned about disaster events, Joe reached the point where he decided to breathe some new life into a platform that already had a lot going for it. He wanted something nimble, easy to work on, reliable, and the right size to carry both family and gear safely out of his hometown of Denver if something went awry.

“Whether it’s winter storms, a volcanic ash event that could come from Yellowstone, or an EMP, I wanted to be prepared for anything that might make driving hard,” Galt says. “The Land Cruiser fit that bill so well that, even in today’s market, trying to find another vehicle like it is almost impossible. If I bought a new one, I could end up spending a hundred grand. As a kid I lived through the Mount St. Helens explosion and seeing what that did to people and communities was kind of devastating. It’s an unlikely event, but it’s an event that eventually will occur again.”

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
The interior of this 1994 Land Cruiser is bug out ready. (Recoil)

The stock inline-six is a notoriously sluggish (and thirsty) powerplant. Switching to a Euro or Japanese diesel wasn’t practical when it came to maintenance and parts accessibility. Joe went with the venerable Cummins in the form of a ’93 5.9L 6BT from Reviva in Minneapolis. The motor was brand new with zero miles, completely remanufactured, and dimensionally similar to the original 4.5L 1FZE. It was adapted to the vehicle courtesy of Diesel Conversion Specialists in Montana. Bringing the specs to roughly 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque was a huge improvement. It all breathes through a Safari snorkel.

Next was pairing it with to the transmission. Here’s where things get interesting. “In the ’93 and ’94 FZ platform, Toyota used the Aisin A442F transmission, which was designed for commercial use, and adapted to the Land Cruiser. Cummins has now adopted Aisin as its transmission producer, so there’s a natural bearing between engine and trans, but using a conversion kit mates it very nicely to the stock transmission, transfer case, and entire driveline.” The torque converter was rebuilt and provides flawless power and integration.

Suspension work was next on the list. Slee Off-Road, who specializes in aftermarket Toyota components, provided a 6-inch lift kit, rear springs, and a number of other suspension upgrades. Old Man Emu front heavy-duty coil springs and shocks were added to compensate for the increased weight of the Cummins. Tom Wood’s double cardan driveshafts round out the underpinnings to account for the lift. ARB slotted brakes were added to improve the existing system.

A Uniden CB radio and portable Baofeng HAM radio keep communications in order, and much of the electronic work can be credited to 3D-Offroad. An Outback drawer system keeps extra supplies organized and locked up. Slee Off-Road skid plates and rock sliders help traverse rocky terrain without getting banged up. “I never go anywhere without my poncho, my Cabela’s sleeping bag, and my Kelly Kettle,” Galt says. “I also carry first aid, firearms, extra ammo, tow straps, tools, lubricants, spare parts, and a full complement of Western U.S. maps.”

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
This 1994 Land Cruiser is the utlimate bug out truck, and stocked full of good stuff. (Recoil)

An auxiliary battery system stays disconnected and can be used in the event of an EMP. Part of the beauty of a vehicle of this age is that no electronics are needed (except the starter) to run the motor or transmission. It can all be run mechanically, which may be outdated, but is a superior design to modern systems if you’re in a dire situation and need to make repairs in the field.

Overall, there’s probably another $55,000 sunk into the vehicle, but that’s still cheaper than a new Land Cruiser, and more practical. “You can go down the road at 90 mph with the 4.10 gears I have and it rides as nice as my ¾-ton Dodge Ram,” Galt says. Although it weighs roughly 7,000 pounds (over a ton more than stock), the diesel manages about 15 to 19 mph versus the original 8 to 9 mph. It’s already been on a 1,200-mile trip after its completion and gets a 400-mile workout on an average weekend. Just goes to show you that old doesn’t mean obsolete.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female Marine combat photographer paves the way

Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.


So, she decided to join the military.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.

At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.

The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.

Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”

This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.

Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.

Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.

Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”

The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.

“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.

Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.

When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.

After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”

These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.

MIGHTY FIT

Data shows performance divide on Army Combat Fitness Test

It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.

The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.


So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)

Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.

Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.

Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.

Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.

Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.

Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.

Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.

CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.

Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.

“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”

Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”

“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”

Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.

“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”

The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.

“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.

The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.

“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s when the F-15 outperforms the F-22 or an F-35

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, revealed why the F-15, originally introduced four decades ago, is still more useful than either the F-22 or the F-35 in certain situations.


The F-15 is a traditional air-superiority fighter of the fourth generation. It’s big, fast, agile, and carriers lots of weapons under the wing where everyone can see them. For that last reason, it’s terrible at stealth, but the other side of the coin is that it’s perfect for intercepting enemy aircraft.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis

Bronk says that when it comes to interception, a plane must “get up right next to the aircraft, fly alongside, show weapons, go on guard frequency, tell them they’re being intercepted, that they’re on course to violate airspace, and to turn back immediately.”

An F-22 or F-35 shouldn’t, and in some cases, can’t do that.

The major advantage of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth abilities and situational awareness. Even the best aircraft in the world would be lucky to lay eyes on any fifth-generation fighter, which means they can set up and control the engagement entirely on their terms.

But while this paradigm lends itself ideally to fighting and killing, interception is a different beast.

The advantages of the F-22, and particularly of the F-35, diminish greatly once planes get within visual range of one another. Also, fifth-gens usually carry their munitions inside internal bomb bays, which is great for stealth but doesn’t really strike the same note that staring down an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the side of an F-15 would.

Simply put, a fifth-gen revealing itself to a legacy fighter would be akin to a hunter laying down his gun before confronting a wild beast.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
An F-22 Raptor | US Air Force photo

“Fifth-gen fighters are not really necessary for that … other, cheaper interceptors can do the job,” Bronk said.

Furthermore, interception happens way more frequently than air-to-air combat. A US Air Force fighter most recently shot down an enemy plane in 2009 — and it was the Air Force’s own wayward drone over Afghanistan. Interceptions happen all the time, with the Baltics and the South China Sea being particular hot spots.

The fifth-gens, however, make sense for entering contested airspace. If the US wanted to enter North Korean or Iranian airspace, it wouldn’t just be to show off, and according to Bronk, the aircraft’s stealth and situational awareness would afford them the opportunity to slip in, hit their marks, and slip out undetected, unlike an F-15.

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense
F-35s are incredible aircraft, but within visual range confrontations are not their fight. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

In interception situations, it makes no sense to offer up an F-22 or an F-35 as a handicapped target to an older legacy plane. F-15s are more than capable of delivering the message themselves, and whoever they intercept will know that the full force of the US Air Force, including fifth-gens, stands behind them.

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