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The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions high as NATO and Russia drill their militaries

British, French, Italian, and German jets have simulated flight interceptions over Western Europe as part of NATO maneuvers to deter Russian planes from entering alliance airspace.

The NATO drills on Sept. 12, 2018, came at the same time that Russia was showing off its most sophisticated air-defense system as it practiced fighting off a mock attack during military maneuvers of its own, the largest it has ever conducted.

The activity comes amid persistently high tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.


In the NATO drills, fighter pilots from alliance members simulated the interception of a Belgian military transport plane en route to Spain. Visual inspections were made by flying off the wings at speeds of 900 kilometers an hour.

NATO has some 60 jets regularly on alert to defend its airspace. A record 870 interceptions were recorded of Russian aircraft in the Baltic region in 2016.

“NATO is relevant. This is not theoretical,” Spanish Air Force Lieutenant General Ruben Garcia Servert said aboard the Belgian plane.

As he spoke, Italian Eurofighters flew close to the cockpit to simulate interceptions, later joined by British Typhoons and French Mirages.

The European members of NATO are looking to display their commitments to their defense in the face of criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump that alliance members are not contributing enough financially to the alliance.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Western alliance is currently negotiating an agreement that would have each member’s air force defend any other’s airspace under a “single sky” concept.

Currently, each country defends its own airspace, although other members help defend the airspace of the Baltic states, which do not have enough fighter jets of their own.

NATO is planning to hold its biggest maneuvers in 16 years when it conducts the Trident Juncture drills in Norway in October and November 2018.

The drills will feature more than 40,000 troops, including some from non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.

Meanwhile, Russia is conducting massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, weeklong war games the Defense Ministry said would involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.


Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the drills in eastern Siberia on Sept. 13, 2018, and insisted that they were not targeted at any country.

“Russia is a peaceful nation,” Putin said at a firing range in the Chita region. “We do not and cannot have any aggressive plans,” he added.

On Sept. 12, 2018, the war games involved Russia’s newest S-400 surface-to-air defense system, which NATO considers a threat to its aircraft.

In 2017 Moscow signed a contract to sell the S-400 system to Turkey, angering NATO and particularly the United States, which threatened to suspend delivery of its F-35 stealth aircraft to Ankara.

The drills simulated a “massive missile attack” by an “unnamed enemy,” military official Sergei Tikhonov said.

The exercises, which also involve Chinese and Mongolian soldiers, will run through Sept. 17, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the US just moved the remains of fallen WWII soldiers

When American servicemen fall and are buried, it’s generally assumed that their resting place will be their last. Whether it’s a troop who was killed in World War I and buried in an American cemetery in France or a hero brought to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, the honored dead are not to be disturbed. However, some of these fallen heroes, whose identities were once unknown, are being disinterred.

One such ceremony took place in mid-July, 2018, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific near Honolulu, Hawaii. This cemetery, also known as the Punchbowl, is where thousands of servicemen who fell during operations in the Pacific Theater of World War II and the Korean War have been buried (some prominent civilians and non-KIAs are also buried there).

The reason for disturbing this rest is a damn good one, though.


The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency believes it may be able to identify some of those fallen personnel and finally provide closure for their families. This has been done several times before, and a number of fallen personnel have been identified over the years as a result.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

U.S. service members with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) conduct a disinterment ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Devone Collins)

Perhaps the most high-profile disinterment for the purpose of identifying a fallen serviceman was of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, who had been interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1984. In 1998, evidence pointing to the identity of that soldier resulted in the decision to disturb the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to conduct DNA testing.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

In 1998, the Department of Defense disinterred the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War to conduct DNA tests to determine his identity,

(DOD)

The tests eventually led to identifying the remains asthose of Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, killed in action when his A-37 Dragonfly was shot down. Blassie’s remains were turned over to his family and he was buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. You can see the July 2018 disinterment at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New deployment shows how Air Force would cripple China

The US Air Force completed a first-of-its-kind training exercise involving the stealthiest aircraft in the world in a massive show of force meant to demonstrate the US’s commitment to bucking down a rising China in the Pacific.

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri took the long flight out to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for the first time ever starting in September 2018.

And while the B-2s familiarized themselves with their new home, they took off for training missions with ultra stealth F-22 Raptor fighter jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard.


“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, US Air Force director of air and cyberspace operations in the Pacific, said in a statement.

“The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Williams. “The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

The US recently started calling the Pacific the “Indo-Pacific” in what was widely seen as a slight against China. Addressing “free and open” travel there seems to needle Beijing over its ambitions to determine who can sail or fly in the international waters of the South China Sea.

But beyond the rhetorical messages, flying B-2s and F-22s together sends a clear military message — you can’t hit what you can’t see.

The US doesn’t have any bigger guns — this is the real deal

Despite the B-2’s massive size, its stealth design and lack of vertical stabilizers make it almost invisible to radars. The F-22 also benefits from all-aspect stealth and a marble-sized footprint on radar screens. Together, the nuclear-capable B-2 and the world-beating F-22 fighter jet represent a force that can go anywhere in the world, beat any defenses, drop nuclear or conventional heavy payloads, and get out of harm’s way.

China has sought to defend the South China Sea with surface-to-air missiles and large radar installations, but the B-2 and F-22 have specific tactics and features to defeat those.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

An Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft banks away after being refueled by a KC-10 Extender aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean, July 15, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

Additionally, the Air Force tweaked the old tactics used by the Cold-War era stealth airframes to show a new look entirely.

Instead of simply taking off and landing from Pearl Harbor, a known base and likely target for Chinese missiles in the opening salvo of a conflict, a B-2 trained on something called “hot reloading” from a smaller base on a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific called Wake Island.

There, specialists refueled the B-2 and reloaded its bomb bays while the engines still ran, enabling a lightning-quick turnaround thousands of miles out from Pearl Harbor and into the Pacific.

“We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges,” Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron’s commander, said in the statement.

While Beijing increasingly takes a militaristic line towards the US, which is trying to preserve freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the US Air Force made the purpose of its new training regime explicit.

The mission sought to “to ensure free, open Indo-Pacific” with stealth nuclear bombers and fighter jets purpose-built to counter Beijing’s South China Sea fortress.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast guard searches, but Japan has lost an island

With its ongoing maritime disputes with China hopelessly unresolved, the last thing Japan needed to do was go and lose an island.

And yet.

It appears no one can find the Japanese island formerly known as Esanbe Hanakita Kojima.

Not even the Japanese Coast Guard, which has been out searching for the strategically significant sliver of land last sighted somewhere off the coast of Hokkaido.


Even worse, the island first named in 2014 may have shuffled below this mortal coil a fair while ago.

This was back in September 2018 when author Hiroshi Shimizu visited nearby Sarufutsu village to write a sequel to his picture book on Japan’s “hidden” islands.

Shimizu told the local fishing cooperative, which sent out a flotilla to its former location only to find it had disappeared.

Japanese officials now believe that the island that once rose about five feet above sea level, has been inexorably broken apart by the pack ice that covers the area throughout the bitter winter. The Guardian seems to confirm this.

The uncertain conclusion is that it has gradually, uncomplainingly, slipped beneath the surface.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

The Japanese Coast Guard.

While Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, might have been too small to be of much practical use, it did have an importance well beyond its fragility.

Before its unexpected absence, the island marked the very western indent of another disputed island chain Japan calls the Northern Territories, while Russia claims the archipelago as the Kuril islands.

China’s South China Morning Post said that the island was formally named by Tokyo in 2014 as part of Japan’s multipronged attempts to reinforce its legal control over hundreds of outlying islands and extend its exclusive economic zone, (EEZ) appears to have sunk without a trace.

The Japanese coastguard has been tasked with carrying out a survey of the area to see if the remnants of the island remain.

It was last formally surveyed in 1987, when records showed it was about 500 metres off Sarufutsu.

The Japanese government used the island to buffer its EEZ a similar distance out to sea where Japanese waters mingle into Russian territory.

But even if they can find the waterlogged remains of Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, it can no longer meet the very basic international legal definition of an island — land — and Japan’s territorial claims appear to be about half a kilometer smaller.

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

Articles

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

On the streets of Long Beach, California, a new restaurant has opened where a quadriplegic Navy veteran focuses on hiring other disabled people — especially veterans — to staff the business.


Daniel Tapia, the owner of the restaurant 4th and Olive, told Fox LA, “I’m referred to what’s known as a walking quad, a high functioning quadriplegic. So, I can walk and move but I have a limited strength and feeling in my hands and feet.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Daniel Tapia is a disabled Navy veteran and co-owner of 4th and Olive. (Photo: YouTube/SupposeWeExpose)

Tapia was a sommelier at another southern California restaurant until he was fired in 2014. Short on employment opportunities and hopeful that he could fight disability discrimination, he decided to launch his own establishment that would provide job opportunities for other disabled veterans.

Some of the vets, like Air Force veteran and bartender John Putnam, are fighting physical battles, but the restaurant also hires people with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
John Putnam is a disabled Air Force veteran who now works as a bartender at 4th and Olive. (Photo: YouTube/SupposeWeExpose)

Co-owner and chef Alex McGroarty told Fox that the veterans are great employees.

“They work really hard,” he said. “If they’ve had a little trouble in the past, they are going to be really loyal and work hard for you.”

“By and large, it’s been a great process hiring these vets, and we can’t wait to hire more,” Tapia said in a recent YouTube video.

4th and Olive is located in Long Beach, California and serves food from the Alsace region of France.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pZONuhGZmE
MIGHTY TRENDING

This former Defense Secretary has the solution to the shutdown and border security

Seldom has there been a public servant who cares more about the people he represents than Robert Gates — and no one more bipartisan. The onetime U.S. Air Force officer has worked under eight administrations, held the post of Director of Central Intelligence, and, of course, was once the Secretary of Defense. The former Cold Warrior has a Ph.D. in Soviet History, but keeps a firm grasp on the nation’s security needs, even today.

And he has a solution for the government shutdown and the border security issue and is calling on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue to “put the interests of the country above their power struggles and political mud wrestling.”


The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reviews troops at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute at the Pentagon, June 30, 2011.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, elder statesman Gates chides both the Democratic members of Congress as well as President Trump and his Republican support for the impasse that has left thousands of federal employees into forced joblessness, or worse: forced, unpaid labor. He calls out both sides of government for the hypocrisy and the misinformation they spread trying to get their way.

All while reminding everyone who’s getting stuck in the middle of the fighting. It isn’t al-Qaeda, ISIS, or drug traffickers. He says, “all those involved share responsibility for the fiasco and its lamentable consequences for millions of Americans.”

But his solution isn’t to think smaller, he wants the United States to think big.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

President George W. Bush, and Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates, right, look-on as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses the nation during a news conference from the Oval Office, shortly after the President announced his replacement.

(DoD)

Gates sees the current deal offered by the Trump Administration to House Democrats — building his proposed .7 billion border wall in exchange for a reprieve on deportations for “dreamers” affected by the end of DACA — as too small. Instead, he believes the United States should look to President George W. Bush’s 2006 border security proposal for the solution.

Bush called for a mix of border security increases along with immigration reform measures, recognizing that deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. at the time was not only too costly, but likely impossible. Bush’s reform measures would have made it possible for all illegals working in the country to be counted — and taxed. It also allowed them to stay where they live without the fear of deportation.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Gates with then-President George H.W. Bush

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill of 2006 was a draft reform bill focused solely on the border areas, and had wide bipartisan support. Illegal immigrants in the U.S., for a certain number of years, could apply for citizenship after paying back taxes and fines. Others who have been in the U.S. not as long could stay, but would have to leave and apply for entry abroad. Most importantly, it shifted the focus to skilled workers from high-tech fields, allowing them special authorizations to stay longer.

In terms of border security, the bill added increased federal- and state-level funding for vastly more fencing, vehicle barriers, surveillance technology, and nearly double the personnel manning those measures. The Senate passed the bill easily, by a nonpartisan vote of 62-36, but the House of Representatives never voted on the measure, and the bill expired at the end of that year’s Congress.

Articles

7 ways Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans

Considered one of the best comedies of all time, Jim Abraham’s films “Hot Shots!” had audiences laughing hysterically as he poked fun at one of Hollywood’s most iconic films “Top Gun.”


The film’s lead character is Topper Harley who it turns out has some extreme “daddy issues” and is asked to go off to war for America’s greater good.

Within this story, there are a few hidden messages on American exceptionalism.

Related: This is what happened to the soldiers from ‘Platoon’

So check out our list of how Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans.

1. He answers America’s call to serve once again

After being booted from the Navy, Topper finds himself living a peaceful life among Native Americans. But soon his country calls for his help on a crucial mission called “Sleepy Weasel.”

After smoking a peace pipe full of helium, Topper decides it’s his duty to answer America’s call by accepting the mission and to find closure for his “daddy issues.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

2. He stands up for his fellow man.

Soon after reporting for duty, Topper tells a senior officer to “lighten up” after witnessing him yelling at a fellow pilot with shitty vision. Then, Topper receives an ear full — which he has no problem taking.

Topper is all about leading his men from the front like a true American.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

3. He attends therapy.

Most tough guys wouldn’t be caught dead discussing their feelings in any setting. But Topper does it, and so should the many Americans who look to him for leadership.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

4. He taught us how to cook an American breakfast using a hot girl’s stomach.

Sounds impossible? Well, Topper did it, and he added an egg, hash browns, and bacon. There’s nothing more American than that.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

5. Harley reminds us that giving money isn’t the best way to say “I’m sorry.”

Americans often look for a simple way to apologize by giving a gift. When Topper hands over his apology gift, he’s told the cold hard cash will likely be blown on a new collection of hats.

Americans also misuse their money, but that’s an entirely different subject.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

6. Topper doesn’t f’ing quit and neither should America … ever.

Topper’s father was known as sort of a wild pilot. He died during a mission and Topper has had issues ever since. This issue temporarily grounded the Navy pilot who is known to freeze up when people mention his father’s death.

Once Topper learns the heroic truth about his father, he snaps out of his funk and takes down the all bad guys — then celebrates.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. We’re all on the same team.

For the whole film, Topper has been duking it out with a fellow pilot for respect with his team and for the affections of a girl. But after dueling it out with the bad guys, the men put their differences aside and become best buds.

This is just a reminder of how in the end, we’re all Americans.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Articles

F-35 versus China and Russia

As the U.S. starts to forward-deploy more of its F-35 Lightning, China and Russia have been putting the finishing touches on their own batches of fifth-generation aircraft — and they all express vastly different ideas about what the future of air combat will look like.


For the U.S., stealth and sophisticated networks define its vision for the future of air combat with the F-22 and F-35.

For China, the plan is to use range to take out high-value targets with the J-20.

For Russia, the PAK-FA shows that it seems to think dogfighting isn’t dead.

Here’s how the F-35 stacks up to the competition.

 The F-35 Lightning II

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
An F-35B begins its short takeoff from the USS America with an external weapons load. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The U.S.’s F-35 isn’t an airplane — it’s three airplanes.

And it isn’t a fighter — it’s “flying sensor-shooters that have the ability to act as information nodes in a combat cloud universe made up of platforms, not just airborne, but also operating at sea and on land that can be networked together,” retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Defense Aerospace Report in November.

In a discussion with four F-35 pilots that was also produced by Defense Aerospace Report, a clear consensus emerged: The difference between an F-35 and an F-15 is like the difference between an iPhone and a corded wall phone. Phones of the past might have had crystal-clear call quality and the ability to conference call, but the iPhone brought with it unprecedented networking and computing capability that has changed life as we know it.

Lt. Col. David “Chip” Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander, told Business Insider that “we don’t even know 50-80% of what this airplane can do,” as it’s awaiting final software upgrades and pilots are finding new ways to use the data link and fused sensors.

That said, the F-35 doesn’t offer any significant upgrades in range, weapons payload, or dogfighting ability over legacy aircraft, while its competition does.

The Chengdu J-20

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of wiki user Alert5)

China’s Chengdu J-20 has one thing in common with the F-35 — it’s not a fighter.

Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the J-20 is “not a fighter, but an interceptor and a strike aircraft” that doesn’t seek to contend with U.S. jets in air-to-air battles.

Instead, “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS” — airborne early-warning and control systems — “and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” Davis said. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

While the Chinese certainly engaged in espionage to steal some of the U.S.’s stealth technology, they haven’t quite cracked stealth integration, which U.S. companies have been developing for 60 years.

On the J-20’s stealth, a senior U.S. low-observable-aircraft design engineer working in the industry told Business Insider that “the J-20 has many features copied from U.S. fifth-gen aircraft; however, it’s apparent from looking at many pictures of the aircraft that the designers don’t fully understand all the concepts of LO” — low-observable, or stealth — “design.”

The real danger of China’s J-20 lies not with its ability to fight against U.S. fighters, but with its laserlike focus on destroying the slower, unarmed planes that support U.S. fighters with its long range and long-range missiles, thereby keeping them out of fighting range.

The J-31

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

China’s J-31 looks a lot like the F-35, and one Chinese national has pleaded guilty to stealing confidential information about the F-35 program.

That said, the J-31 suffers from China’s inferior composite-materials technology and its inability to build planes in the precise way a stealth airplane needs to be built. Additionally, there’s reason to suspect the avionics in the Chinese programs significantly lag the F-35.

But the J-31, like the J-20, still poses a significant threat because China has developed long-range missiles, which combined with their ground-based radars and radar sites in the South China Sea could potentially pick off U.S. stealth aircraft before the F-35s and F-22s could fire back.

Davis told Business Insider that the J-31 doesn’t just seek to compete with the U.S. militarily, but that the J-31 “very clearly is an F-35 competitor in a commercial sense.” Nations that weren’t invited to participate in the F-35 program may seek to buy China’s cheaper and somewhat comparable J-31.

A fleet of J-31s in the hands of Iran, for example, could pose a serious threat to U.S. interests abroad.

The PAK-FA/T-50

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The PAK-FA/T-50. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Russia’s PAK-FA, also known as the T-50, has been criticized as being fifth-generation “in name only,” but as Russia proves time and time again, it doesn’t need the best and most expensive technology to pose a real threat to U.S. aircraft.

The PAK-FA’s greatest failure is in the stealth arena. While the PAK-FA has some stealth from the front angle, “it’s a dirty aircraft,” said a person who helps build stealth aircraft, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the work.

But stealth represents just one aspect of air combat, and the Russians have considerable counterstealth technologies. So while the PAK-FA fails to deliver the stealth or total networking capacity of the F-35, it is a fighter — and a damn good one.

The U.S.’s F-22 has 2D thrust-vectoring nozzles at the engines and is the most agile plane the U.S. has ever built. The PAK-FA has 3D thrust-vectoring nozzles and is even more agile.

Additionally, the PAK-FA can be armed to the teeth with infrared missiles that focus on heat and ignore the U.S.’s stealth. So while the U.S.’s fifth generation hinges on controlling the battle from range and at the jump-off point, Russia’s PAK-FA seems to focus on close-up fights, which the designers of the F-35 didn’t concentrate on.

Conclusion

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

China and Russia have both shown the world something new in their fifth-generation aircraft. No longer will these rising powers look to advance the capabilities they currently have — they will actively seek to enter new areas of aerial combat.

Related: Here’s how the F-35 slaughtered the competition in its latest test

Both Russian and Chinese entries seem to focus on key weak points in the U.S.’s force structure by using specialized aircraft.

But the U.S. doesn’t specialize. The F-35 does everything well and seeks the informational high ground with massive computing power, all-aspect stealth, and the ability to network with almost every set of eyes and ears in the U.S. military.

The F-35 has limited range and ability for close combat, but unlike the Chinese and Russian fifth-gens that try to score kills on their own, the F-35 plays like a quarterback, sending targeting information to any platform available.

As the F-35 software develops, pilots will be free to take on more demanding missions, but China’s and Russia’s fifth-gens will still be confined to relatively narrow ones.

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 places where ISIS is still a major threat

ISIS’ territorial control in Iraq and Syria is eroding.


In Syria, the fall of its self-declared capital in Raqqa and its last military bastion in Deir ez-Zor have forced ISIS toward the Iraqi border.

In Iraq, the liberation of Mosul and Tal Afar have ISIS fighters retreating toward the Syrian border, where they are being hunted down in a final push by Iraqi forces.

On October 21, President Trump said “the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight.”

Also read: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

This week, Vladimir Shamanov, a former military officer who leads the Defense Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that by the end of this year ISIS “won’t exist anymore as an organized military structure.”

While ISIS is losing large swaths of its home turf, it still operates in a number of countries. Here are nine places where the fight against ISIS is not slowing down.

9. Egypt

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Marines with India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit run on the beach during an amphibious assault demonstration conducted as part of Exercise Bright Star 2009 in Alexandria, Egypt, on Oct. 12, 2009. DoD photo by Cpl. Theodore W. Ritchie, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

The Egyptian government has been fighting Islamist insurgents since the military took power in 2013. Most of the fighting has happened in the Sinai Peninsula, where ISIS proclaimed a province in 2014.

Egypt has been under an official state of emergency since April, after a attack killed dozens of members of Egypt’s minority Christian population.

Hundreds of Egyptian police and military servicemen have been killed in battles with jihadists. In an ISIS attack on an army outpost in Sinai in July 2016, 23 soldiers were killed and at least 26 were wounded.

In late October, at least 54 policemen and conscripts, including several officers, were killed in what appeared to be a well-planned ambush. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities have not ruled out ISIS.

The latest attack took place in the Giza governorate, which means the insurgency is spreading beyond the Sinai Peninsula — a worrisome sign that may have led President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reorganize his security leadership.

8. Libya

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Part of a group of six Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Gaddafi forces, destroyed by French Rafale airplanes at the west-southern outskirts of Benghazi, Libya.

Libya became a safe haven for terrorist groups after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It currently has three different governments claiming authority over the country, and the lack of a strong central authority and a unified security force has allowed militias to fill the void.

ISIS seized the coastal city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown — in 2015. At its peak, ISIS was thought to have over 5,000 militants in Libya. In addition to causing chaos there, they were aiding jihadist groups in Egypt and other parts of North and West Africa.

Though ISIS lost control of Sirte in December 2016, they still have what officials have described as a “desert army” operating in the regions south of the city. That army has shown signs of trying to gain ground in the country.

The US launched its first airstrike in Libya under President Donald Trump in September, 150 miles south of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 militants.

A major concern among European officials is that as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, its fighters could relocate to Libya. Among those fighters may be Westerners who could use Libya’s role as a transit point for migrants to return home.

7. Yemen

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Yemen has long been a battleground in the fight against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. While the Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in country has received much of the attention, ISIS’ presence there has gotten the notice of the US.

ISIS created its Yemen branch in 2014, during the chaos that followed the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Since then, its attacks have killed hundreds.

US forces launched more than 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. October saw the first US airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen. According to US Central Command, the three strikes on ISIS training camps reportedly killed 60 militants.

6. Afghanistan

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Afghan National Army soldiers with 2nd Kandak, 4th Brigade, 215th Corps chant their unit’s battle song during a graduation ceremony at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, July 24, 2017. Hundreds of soldiers completed an operational readiness cycle at the Helmand Province Regional Military Training Center, an eight-week course designed to enhance its students’ infantry and warfighting capabilities. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, was declared in 2014. The group mostly made up of Taliban defectors and new recruits.

Though the group only controls small patches of territory, it has been a main focus for the US military. On April 13, the US dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb on an ISIS-K compound. Estimates of the number killed range between 36 and 96 militants.

Militants affiliated with ISIS and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have also clashed with each other, resulting in deaths on both sides.

A drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on October 12 reportedly killed 14 ISIS militants — though an Afghan MP, Shahzada Shaheed, claimed all the casualties were civilians.

The US estimates that there are roughly 600 to 800 ISIS-affiliated militants still in the country, mostly in Nangarhar province in northeast Afghanistan.

5 – 3. Mali, Niger, and Nigeria

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Nigerian troops during Operation Flintlock 2007 (U.S. Navy Photo)

West Africa is becoming an increasingly important front in the fight against ISIS. Islamist violence is not new in the region. There was an insurgency that took over northern Mali in 2013, and the jihadist group Boko Haram declared allegiance to ISIS in 2015.But the violence has showed no signs of slowing down.

New groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara — which reportedly carried out the early-October ambush that killed four US soldiers while they were on a mission with local partners in Niger — are being formed, and the number of militants joining these groups seems to be increasing.

On October 23, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said that ISIS “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa.

“We’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less,” Dunford said, adding that the US military will be making recommendations to Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and that US forces will remain in the area despite the casualties in Niger.

2. Somalia

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As in West Africa, Islamist violence is not new to Somalia. For the last decade, the most feared jihadist group in the country has been Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda ally. ISIS unsuccessfully tried to recruit Al Shabab in 2015, and now the two groups fight each other in addition to government forces.

Though smaller than Al Shabab, ISIS’ affiliate in Somalia has made its mark as a deadly terrorist organization. It has routinely conducted bombings and attacks that have killed hundreds. It is also outgaining Al Shabab in terms of foreign volunteers, as most aspiring jihadists want to be part of the ISIS brand.

In October, the largest bombing in the history of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, left at least 300 civilians dead and caused more than 275 injuries.

No group has claimed responsibility, but it is a troubling sign as it could lead to more violent competition between Al Shabab and ISIS, as they try to become the dominant Islamist group in the country.

The Trump administration sent US troops to Somalia in May — the first such deployment in more than 20 years — to aid antiterrorism efforts. On Friday, the US military carried out its first two drone strikes on ISIS targets in Somalia, killing “several terrorists,” according to US Africa Command.

1. Philippines

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Philippine Navy Special Forces Sailors confront U.S. Sailors portraying crewmembers aboard military sealift command rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), during an at-sea boarding exercise for Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism (SEACAT) 2009. SEACAT is a weeklong at-sea exercise designed to highlight the value of information sharing and multinational coordination within a scenario that gives participating navies practical maritime interception training opportunities. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Troy Roat/Released)

ISIS made its mark in the Philippines in a manner similar to that in Iraq and Syria — suddenly emerging with a large and organized force, seizing large amounts of territory.

Led by Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Brothers — who formally lead Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, respectively — forces that pledged loyalty to ISIS took over the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The siege that followed resulted in the deaths of 962 ISIS militants, including Hapilon and at least one of the Maute Brothers; 165 Philippine soldiers were killed, and nearly 1.1 million people were displaced.

Though Philippine soldiers liberated the city, ISIS remains a threat in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia as a whole.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mormon colonies are fighting drug cartels in Mexico

Early one morning in Galeana, Mexico, a series of pickup trucks pulled up to a small, unassuming house. It was like many houses in the state of Chihuahua, except this one was occupied by the family of a man who decided to stand up to the drug cartels that had for so long terrorized his friends and neighbors. The man (along with a friend who had come by to check on the commotion) were dragged away at gunpoint. The narcos drove them down the street and shot them.


That was the last straw. Now there’s a new force standing up to the cartels terrorizing the people and government of Mexico, a resistance is coming from what you might think of as an unlikely source: The Mormon Church.

The war on drugs in Mexico has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. When the government switched its tactics to take down the higher-ranking members of the cartels, their successes left power vacuums in their wake, which sparked wars for dominance among individuals inside the cartels. As a result, the drug-related violence has only gotten more widespread and more intense as time wore on. The violence is ten times deadlier in Mexico than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Vice reporter and founder Shane Smith drove down to Chihuahua to talk to the long-established Mormon colony run by the Lebaron family, descendants of the first Mormon settlers in the region. The Lebaron family, like most who stand up to bullies, were just pushed around once too often, as a result of kidnappings, extortion, and ultimately, murder.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Vice founder Shane Smith with the Mexican Federal Police at a Chihuahua road block.

(Vice News)

Mormons first came to Mexico in 1875 to escape persecution from the U.S. government for their beliefs, specifically plural marriage – also known as polygamy. Those who refused to adhere to the United States’ demand to end the practice came to Mexico where they could continue what they saw as not only a divine right, but a commandment. Their descendants still live there to this day, just south of the border.

The murders in Galeana were the result of the Mormon colonies who put pressure on the cartels through their political partners in the Mexican government. After one of their own was kidnapped, they told the government to do something about it, or they would do it themselves. The kidnapped child was returned unharmed, but shortly after, the Mormons paid the price with the lives of Benjamin Lebaron and his friend Luis Widmar.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and captured by the Federales.

(Vice News)

That changed the game. The Mormons went through the process of getting gun ownership rights in the country, no small feat. Then they called in the Federales, who use their colony – a known safe haven from narcos – as a base of operations, intercepting drug smugglers on major highways in Chihuahua, conducting patrols and raids, and watching the traffickers as they work. The Mormons themselves have also joined the fight, they have adopted the tactics of U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the Iraq War, setting roadblocks and observation posts of their own.

Word got around to the narcos, eventually. Rumor has it the Mormons employ scouts and snipers to defend their colonies. The drug traffickers are all known to the Mormons now, their vehicles and faces easily identifiable to Church leaders, who work in close concert with the Mexican federal police. Their enduring vigilance has led to an uneasy stalemate in violence and kidnappings. They still occur, but with much less frequency.

For now.

Articles

12 leadership lessons in the words of Robert E. Lee

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee didn’t want to fight the Civil War. He thought the dissolution of the Union would bring about the end of the American experiment.


Yet he led the Confederate Army through all four years of the American Civil War.

For many, Lee’s decision to resign from the U.S. Army and fight for his home state of Virginia demonstrated a flaw in his character.

Some see him trading the principles of American freedom to fight to uphold the institution of slavery. But where Lee saw secession as an act of democracy, the North saw it differently, and Lee chose to fight for that reason alone.

“If Virginia stands by the old Union,” said Lee, quoted in Smithsonian Magazine, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

No matter how one may feel about Lee’s service or legacy, he was a towering figure, a hero of the Mexican war, and one of the best leaders to come from West Point.

There are many books that provide key lessons in leadership from his life that we can apply every day.

1. The importance of ambition.

“It is for you to decide your destiny, freely and without constraint.”

2. Know what you’re up against.

“It behooves us to be on the alert, or we will be deceived. You know that is part of Grant’s tactics.”

3. Your confidence in yourself and the confidence others have in you are both key to success.

“No matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops, disaster must sooner or later ensue.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

4. Courage is remembered.

“I recollect the distance [Lee traveled] amid darkness and storm… traversed entirely unaccompanied. Scarcely a step could have been taken without danger of death; but that to him, a true soldier, was the willing risk of duty in a good cause.”

– Gen. Winfield Scott, remarking on Lee’s action in the Mexican War

5. Always finish what is expected of you.

“Duty… is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things, you cannot do more – you should never wish to do less.”

6. Plan for the long term.

“The life of humanity is so long, that of the individual is so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Colonel Robert E. Lee

7. Expect to fail at times.

“We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.”

8. Integrity above all else.

“I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity.”

9. Hire the right people, then inspire them to greatness.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Lee in 1869, the year before his death.

“You must inspire and lead your brave division that it may accomplish the work of a corps… our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led.”

10. Be magnanimous in competition. Anything less breeds contempt.

“Madame, don’t bring your sons up to detest the United States. Recollect that we form one country, now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans.”

– Lee in a letter to a Confederate widow after the war

11. Loyalty begets loyalty.

“Lee was a phenomenon… the only man I would follow blindfolded.”

– Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

12. Reward discipline in subordinates.

“In recommending officers and men for promotion you will always, where other qualifications are equal, give preference to those who show the highest appreciation of the importance of discipline and evince the greatest attention to its requirements.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Robert E. Lee’s death mask (Museum of the Confederacy)

Articles

This could be the new replacement for the US Army’s Blackhawk helicopter

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Bell’s V-280 Valor | Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.


After several decades of service, the US Army might finally replace their lineup of UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

Unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England, Bell Helicopter — in conjunction withLockheed Martin — debuted their latest creation, the V-280 Valor.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Bell Helicopters

Similar to the V-22 Osprey currently in service by the US Marine Corps and Air Force, the V-280 applies a tiltrotor mechanism to fly similar to normal helicopters and aircraft. However, the similarities seem to end there, as significant upgrades look to eclipse its predecessor’s capabilities.

Bell claims that the new V-280 will now be capable of flying at twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms. Features of the helicopter include a 500-800 nautical miles range, aerial refueling, a crew of 4 and 14 troops, carrying capacity of 25% more cargo than a Blackhawk, and its signature 280 knots true airspeed (KTAS).

According to Aviation Week, the Valor will also have a forward-firing capability and a technologically advanced glass cockpit — like Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Bell Helicopters

In addition to its performance, the V-280 will be more affordable than the V-22: due to the nature of its straight wing design, the V-280 would not only take half the time to construct compared to the V-22’s swept wing, but also half as cheaper — costing about $20 million, similar to the UH-60.

Other nations, such as Australia, UK, and Canada, have also followed suit in expressing interest in the helicopter. So far, the construction of the helicopter is about 60% completed and is slated to take its inaugural flight on September 2017.