U.S. Air Force officials are looking to upgrade the B-52 Stratofortress‘ bomb load at a time when the service, and the Defense Department as a whole, is preparing for near-peer rivals.
In June 2018 the service posted a request for information survey to identify potential contractors that could offer insights on how to best integrate newer and much heavier bombs under the aircraft’s wings.
Given that the aircraft is expected to fly for another 30 years, the potential upgrade — part of the Heavy Weapon Release Pylon Program — speaks to the Air Force’s initiative to stay ahead of emerging threats, particularly aggressors in the Pacific, according to a service official.
“This is not a requirement that came out of nowhere,” the service official told Military.com on background July 9, 2018. “There are compelling reasons for why we have to go down that road.”
While specific munitions haven’t been advertised, the goal is to quadruple the bomb size. Officials want pylons “capable of carrying multiple weapons in the 5,000-lb to 20,000-pound weight class,” according to the RFI. The current common pylon maximum is for 5,000-pound munitions.
A B-52 Stratofortress
The external pylon “was designed in 1959 and has been in service since the 1960s. When it was introduced, there wasn’t a requirement nor did anyone foresee a need to carry weapons heavier than 5000 lbs,” the RFI states.
According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.
“It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” the NDS says.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has on multiple occasions referenced China’s quick pace in technological development, which is driving the service to react. There has been explicit recognition “of the re-emergence of great power competition,” she has said.
“[China] is modernizing very quickly. They’re modernizing their air defenses, but also their air-to-air capability is really modernizing across the board. It is the pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization,” she told reporters at the Pentagon in February 2018.
The official also pointed to the bomber road map, which enhances the B-52 aircraft as a whole.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)
The move marked a significant shift to bring back the B-52H, which previously filled the continuous bomber presence mission from 2006 to 2016 before the B-1 briefly took over.
Bringing the B-52 back meant putting a nuclear-capable bomber in theater at a time when relations between the U.S. and North Korea were largely unpredictable, and as China continued to flex its muscles in the South China Sea.
“Nothing wrong with competition, nothing wrong with having strong positions, but when it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,” Mattis said.
As for the B-52 bomb pylon upgrade, the program is in the early stages.
The RFI “is only for market research of possible contractor sources,” said Stephen Palmer, a contracting officer with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center who specializes in the B-1 Lancer and B-52 programs at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
“[We] are not asking for any contractor to provide a proposal at this time,” he said in an email.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
U.S. Army soldiers descending on a field outside Mont Saint Michel.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)
The jump celebrated the 75th anniversary of jumps by three-man “Jedburgh” teams ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII. Around 300 Allied troops dropped behind enemy lines to train and equip local resistance fighters.
The “10th SFG(A) draws [its] lineage from the Jedburghs. We’re celebrating their combined effort to liberate Western Europe with local forces,” a senior enlisted soldier assigned to 10th SFG (A) said in a statement.
A US soldier collecting his parachute after landing.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)
“Overall it was a great jump. It was smooth and went as planned,” one soldier who made the jump explained, adding, “It’s an outstanding experience to be able to honor the paratroopers who jumped into France during World War II.”
Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.
“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”
The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.
Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.
It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.
In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.
Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.
Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.
“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”
The Zumwalt-class destroyer, the largest and most advanced surface combatant in the world, was built to be a silent killer, but the revolutionary warship has faced a string of setbacks during development — including the embarrassing problem that its supergun still does not work right.
The two 155mm guns of the Advanced Gun System on the Zumwalt, intended to strike targets farther than 80 miles away, are ridiculously expensive to fire, as a single Long Range Land Attack Projectile costs almost $1 million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition to fire.
“We just cannot get the thing to fly as far as we want,” Vice Adm. William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee Tuesday, explaining that the Navy may do away with the guns entirely if it can’t develop effective and cost-efficient ammunition, according to Breaking Defense.
The Navy “will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future,” he continued.
“The ship is doing fine, on track to be operational in 2021 in the fleet,” he said, adding that the Zumwalt-class destroyer remains a “very capable platform with or without that gun.”
This is what would happen if the USS Zumwalt fought a Russian battlecruiser
The Zumwalt-class destroyers were expected to serve as multi-mission ships, focusing primarily on land-attack and naval gunfire support missions with secondary anti-ship and anti-aircraft mission capabilities.
The Navy saw the ship operating in coastal areas and supporting ground troops, but that mission was changed late last year, according to The Diplomat.
The destroyer will now serve as a surface strike combatant, relying on a diverse arsenal of anti-ship and anti-air missiles capable of being launched from 80 Mk 54 Vertical Launch System cells, which Merz said were larger than those of other surface ships, creating more options for armaments.
The Zumwalt, however, has fewer missile cells than the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which have 96 and 122 missile launch cells that can carry interceptors, cruise missiles, and rocket-launched torpedoes.
It appears that the Navy intends to force the Zumwalt through the development process and then sort the rest out later.
“We determined that the best future for that ship is to get it out there with the capability that it has and separate out the Advanced Gun System, leaving everything else in place,” Merz said, according to Breaking News.
But the gun is apparently not the only problem when it comes to the Zumwalt.
The ship has been steadily becoming less and less stealthy as the Navy settles for bolt-on components — including satellite communication antenna systems mounted on the sides and the high-frequency vertical antenna bolted on the top — amid efforts to cut costs.
The Drive spotted these problems on one of three Zumwalt-class destroyers in the works. (There were initially supposed to be more than 30.) The publication speculated that these non-low-observable features would negatively affect the stealth capabilities of the ship, which was initially built to be as stealthy as a fishing boat.
These potential detriments were not visible on earlier versions of the Zumwalt-class destroyers.
The Zumwalt-class destroyers have also experienced serious engine and electrical problems during development. Nonetheless, the ship’s twin Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines and advanced technological systems make it a candidate for future railgun and directed-energy weapons.
“She is going to be a candidate for any advanced weapon system that we develop,” Merz said Nov. 27, according to Breaking Defense.
The Zumwalt’s primary competitor is China’s Type 055 Renhai destroyer.
Though the Chinese warship is not as technologically advanced as the Zumwalt, which remains unmatched, the Renhai destroyers are equipped with 112 VLS cells able to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles, and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes, according to the South China Morning Post.
The missions vary a bit, as the Type 055 is expected to serve as an air-defense and anti-submarine warship, one that could escort Chinese aircraft carriers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After that, an intense arms race erupted to counter this devastating threat to ships.
The Styx is a primitive missile. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, based on the variant, and travels at 90 percent of the speed of sound, or around 600 miles per hour. It is radar-guided. While primitive, it can carry a 1,000-pound warhead, or roughly the same amount of high-explosives in a Mk 84 2,000-pound bomb.
The Styx is perhaps the most common of the early Russian-style anti-ship missiles out there. Versions have been made in China and North Korea.
The best way to kill the Styx – or any anti-ship missile – is to kill the platform carrying them before the missiles are launched. Second-best is to use missiles to kill the other missiles far away.
But sometimes, you don’t get to choose one of those options. Sometimes, the missile gets too close to use missiles.
That is where the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System comes in. This is essentially a self-contained package containing the targeting system, ammo, and a M61 Gatling gun – the same gun used on legendary warplanes like the F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A version is also used by the Army to shoot down rockets and mortar rounds.
The Phalanx has a top range of just under three and a half miles, but it is really only effective for just under a mile. In essence, it has six seconds to kill the target.
Fortunately, the M61 can spew out a lot of bullets in a very short period of time — up to 75 a second. Killing the missile will protect a ship from the worst of the impact, but the ship will be hurt.
However, fragment damage beats having a huge hole blown into a ship. And a damaged ship can be fixed and return to the front. Ships that are sunk are lost forever. You can see the Phalanx do its thing in the video below.
Britain is planning to almost double its number of troops in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced.
May on July 10, 2018, said the British military will deploy an extra 440 troops, bringing the country’s total to about 1,100, as it looks to assist Afghan forces in their battle against Taliban and Islamic State (IS) insurgents.
The move comes a day before the start a potentially contentious NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018, with U.S. President Donald Trump demanding that members contribute more to the alliance’s efforts and their own national defense.
Trump has called on allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan to help deal with the security situation the country, where a NATO-led mission is assisting the Western-backed government in Kabul.
“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan, we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, the U.K. is among the first to answer,” May said.
The additional troops will not be in a combat role and will instead take part in NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train and assist Afghan forces.
British troops, like the bulk of Western forces, ended combat operations in 2014, handing battlefield duties mainly over to Afghan forces.
About half of the British troops will arrive in August 2018, with the rest coming in February 2019. They will be based in Kabul.
Trump in 2017 announced that the United States would send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and has asked other NATO countries to send reinforcements as well.
Citing U.S. officials, Reuters reported on July 10, 2018, that the U.S. administration is planning another major review of its strategy in Afghanistan “in the next few months.”
The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, along with IS, Al-Qaeda, and other militants, some 17 years after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from rule in Afghanistan.
The Dillon Aero M134D minigun is the world’s ultimate gatling gun, firing upwards of 6,000 rounds per-minute. And the awesome weapon can be carried on everything from small helicopters to fixed wing planes to the backs of infantrymen.
The 7.62mm minigun got its start in Vietnam where the Army adopted it for vehicle and infantry use while the Air Force bought it for its first-generation “Spooky” gunships. The infantry version of the weapon requires a tripod and large batteries and was rarely deployed.
But the vehicle-mounted versions of the weapon were a hit. The AC-47 carried three of the miniguns on its left side and would fly through the skies of Vietnam at night, dropping flares to illuminate enemies attacking U.S. forces and then wasting them with the three miniguns. It was later nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the way its tracers lit up the night.
The Air Force eventually turned to a larger plane and larger guns for aerial gunships, leading to the AC-130 variants still flying today. But the M134 saw expanded deployments as the Navy began mounting them on ships and boats and the Army expanded the weapon onto more helicopters and vehicles.
But the original M134s were prone to jamming, so Dillon Aero went back to the drawing board and eventually rolled out the M134D, a more reliable version of the weapon.
The Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft crews rely heavily on the weapon when conducting riverine operations and landing SEALs. The high rate of fire allows them to quickly subdue a riverbank or to suppress an enemy chasing Navy SEALs during a pick up.
See the awesome weapon in action in the video below:
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.
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.”
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 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 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.”
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 Navy admiral who has led the service’s most elite special operators during a string of high-profile scandals will leave his post in September, Military.com has confirmed.
Rear Adm. Collin Green will wrap up his term as head of Naval Special Warfare Command after two years in the position. The move, first reported by The Intercept last weekend, follows several high-profile controversies involving the command that, in part, prompted a full review of U.S. Special Operations Command’s ethics and culture.
A Navy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the flag officer’s move, said “there is no indication he has been asked to leave early.”
“He’s leaving at the two-year point, which is a normal command tour,” the official said. “It’s premature to say he’s retiring.”
It’s not immediately clear in what position Green would serve next or who would replace him. The Intercept reported that Rear Adm. H. Wyman Howard III, a Naval Academy grad serving as head of Special Operations Command Central, will be nominated to replace Green.
Howard previously served as a commander with SEAL Team 6, which carries out some of the military’s most covert missions. The Intercept reported in 2017 that Howard gave his operators hand-made hatchets and told them ahead of missions and deployments to “bloody the hatchet.”
Green has led the Navy SEALs since September 2017 after assuming command from Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, who spent two years in the position. Of the last four flag officers who led the command, three left after two years.
Szymanski’s predecessor, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, led the command for more than three years.
The Intercept reported that Green’s tour had been set to last three years, but “the stress from his reform efforts, as well as personal issues, have taken a toll.”
Green sent a letter to his commanders in July telling them “we have a problem,” and ordering leaders to help restore discipline in the ranks. The two-star followed it up the next month with a memo to the force announcing a return to routine inspections, discipline trackers, and strict enforcement of all Navy grooming and uniform standards.
The four-page memo said the problems in the command would be met with “urgent, effective and active leadership.”
Some of those incidents caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who at one point ordered Green’s command to “Get back to business!” after the admiral considered stripping a former SEAL of his coveted trident pin.
President Trump has officially signed the order to begin the process of developing the Space Force. The logical side of all of our brains is telling us that it’s just going to be an upgraded version of what the Navy and Air Force’s respective Space Commands currently do… but deep down, we all want to sign up.
I mean, who wouldn’t immediately sign an indefinite contract to be a space shuttle door gunner? It represents that tiny glimmer of hope in all of us that says we, one day, can live out every epic space fantasy we’ve ever dreamed up.
The sad truth is that the first couple decades (if not centuries) of the Space Force will involve dealing with boring human problems, not fighting intergalactic aliens bent on destroying our solar system. Oh well.
Hey, while you wait for the army of Space Bugs to start invading, kill some time with these memes.
When it comes to weapons failure, the panjandrum, or “The Great Panjandrum,” is right near the top. Designed by the British during WWII, it was basically two wheels held together by a bomb and included rocket propulsion. The plan was to break out the panjandrum on D-Day in order to penetrate the Nazi’s coastal defense and fortifications, the Atlantic Wall.
The Panjandrum was projected to break through the concrete Atlantic Wall in order to create a gap wide enough for tanks to penetrate. The theory seemed flawless and the weapon was thought to be feasible and an effective. It would allow the British to storm the beach without sending a large numbers of soldiers to face lethal enemy fire. However, a plan and execution are two very different things in war.
However, after a few modifications, the panjandrum proved during its final test to have the reliability of a last-minute high school mouse-trap car project. The result: one dead dog and one dead project.
As the rockets continued to fire the Panjandrum spun erratically, and people (generals included) went running for cover. The cameraman was almost bowled over, and eventually the machine disintegrated. The dog of one of the army officers present chased down one of the rockets strewn on the beach and was killed by it.
Head over to War History Online to read more and check out videos of the failed test and a recreation of the prototype from 2009 on the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
The suspect behind several suspicious letters that were sent to the White House and the Pentagon in early October 2018 has reportedly been taken into custody.
Authorities took the suspect, previously identified as a former Navy sailor, into custody Oct. 3, 2018, CNN first reported, adding that a crew has started clearing the suspect’s residence.
The envelopes, which were intercepted by the Secret Service and the Pentagon’s mail room staff, reportedly tested positive for ricin, a potentially deadly substance, especially in a pure, powdered form. The letters sent to the Department of Defense were addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. The letter sent to the White House was addressed to President Donald Trump.
The White House.
(Photo by Daniel Schwen)
The suspect was identified by a return address on one of the letters sent to the Pentagon, Fox News reported on Oct. 3, 2018.
While the FBI has been spearheading the investigation, the Pentagon has been providing regular updates to reporters.
On Oct. 1, 2018, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility,” DoD spokesman Col. Rob Manning told Business Insider in an emailed statement, further explaining that “all USPS mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility yesterday is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White provided additional information on Oct. 3, 2018, revealing that at least one of the letters sent to the DoD contained castor seeds, from which ricin is derived.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.