In 1963, the youngest B-52 was less than a year old. The ABC network soap opera “General Hospital” started airing. The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank in an accident.
One other thing happened: a young man from Emporia, Virginia, by the name of Frederick Grant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“I had stopped going to school. I was looking for excitement and the Marine Corps recruiter really impressed me. He told me I would be able to trust the Marines beside me, and he was right. I also joined to see the world,” Grant said during a Marine Corps interview. “When I first came in, I was a normal infantry guy and then I became a communicator.”
Grant would end up spending 38 years in the Marine Corps, eventually becoming first a warrant officer, then a commissioned officer. He retired on Sept. 1, 2001 as a lieutenant colonel. His service included at least one tour in Vietnam.
“It was a small-unit war full of patrolling. Most of the time, I was in pretty safe areas,” he said. “I’m reluctant to talk too much on it because there were so many that had it so much worse than I did. It was just very hard to describe.”
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grant got a job running the Tactical Exercise Control Group, which handled the simulations for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. He did so for 16 years, until his retirement in January.
“I never thought of it as a job. I never consider myself going to work,” he said. “Obviously there are dangerous times; there are exciting times; there are fun times, and I just feel very fortunate. The environment was great; it still is.”
He added that life as a civilian contractor was different than life as a Marine.
“I don’t have to do a Physical Fitness Test anymore although I’m always willing to work out with the Marines,” he said. “There isn’t much difference, and that’s because I choose it to be so. I could take the easy way out, but I don’t want to take that path.”
And after 54 years of service, what does Lt. Col. Grant intend to do?
“I’m going to relax. I mean, it has been 50 some years, so I’m going to golf or something. I’m a big runner, so I’ll run in the Southern California sunshine,” he said. “I guess the primary goal will be to reciprocate to my family all the support they’ve shown me throughout the years.”
The walls of Travis Bell’s modest barbershop on Fort Bragg are lined with history.
Photos of Army heroes are here, men such as the late Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, a Special Forces legend best known for leading the Son Tay raid during an attempted rescue of American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Former Army leaders have found their way on the walls, too, including Gens. Hugh Shelton, Ray Odierno, Lloyd Austin, and Stanley McChrystal.
Some are official photos. Others were taken from Bell’s barber chair in the center of his shop. In a few, it’s Bell in the chair and a general behind him, playfully holding a pair of clippers.
Nearly every photograph includes a handwritten note to Bell, who has been a fixture on Fort Bragg for more than half the Army post’s almost 100-year history.
“Thanks for your dedication and friendship,” wrote Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, who served as a deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps from 2007 to 2009.
“Thank you for your friendship, support, and dedicated service to America,” wrote Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commanded the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg from 2005 to 2007.
“To Travis with deep respect,” wrote McChrystal, who served as chief of staff of the corps and later commanded Joint Special Operations Command and the US war in Afghanistan before his retirement in 2010.
After 50 years of standing behind his barber chair, Fort Bragg leaders pulled Bell out into the open July 7 to honor him for his decades of service.
Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and the acting senior commander of Fort Bragg, said Bell has had a lasting impact on Fort Bragg and its leaders that stretches well beyond making them look good.
“He’s shaped a lot of leaders in the Corps,” the general said. “He has probably counseled every Corps commander since 1967.”
Bell, 77, has long served as a sounding board for soldiers across the 18th Airborne Corps, LaCamera said. And he has more time in the headquarters than anyone in history.
As a token of appreciation, the general presented Bell with a book full of handwritten letters from past Army leaders.
“The impact he’s had…” LaCamera said. “Who he has touched… It’s unbelievable. We’ve got a man who has had a tremendous impact.”
Bell opened his shop on Fort Bragg during the week of July 4, 1967. The then-27-year-old had worked on post for several months by that time — first at the old E-4 club, which would eventually become the Noncommissioned Officers Club, and then briefly at the 1st Corps Support Command headquarters.
Bell recalls accepting the job at the 18th Airborne Corps reluctantly.
In 1966, he turned down a similar job on Fort Bragg when he learned that the Corps headquarters was “where all that high brass” was stationed.
Instead, Bell kept working as a night foreman at a poultry plant in Robeson County. He cut hair on the side for a quarter or $.35 a cut.
When another job at Fort Bragg opened — this time with lower-ranking troops as the customers — Bell jumped at the opportunity.
“I was one of them,” he said of the privates and privates first class who were among his first customers on post. “I was right at home.”
It would take Bell weeks to feel comfortable cutting the hair of soldiers at higher ranks.
When a lieutenant sat in his chair for the first time, Bell said he froze.
“I got so nervous I couldn’t hardly finish,” he said.
When Bell was offered the job at the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters a second time, he said he felt he had little choice but to accept it.
“It was go there or go home,” he said.
Bell grew up on a Robeson County farm, one of nine boys who worked the fields alongside their father. Later, he would be a painter, carpenter, plumber and mechanic, and do other odd jobs along the way.
He said he viewed cutting hair as his way out of those jobs, learning from an older brother and practicing on his siblings.
But settling into his shop at the 18th Airborne Corps, Bell would have had no idea he would still be there 50 years later.
“I thought I wouldn’t even last the first day,” he said. “But I made it through that. Then I made it through another one. And another one.”
Bell estimates that he has cut more than a million heads of hair at Fort Bragg, although he said business is a lot slower these days, with much of the 18th Airborne Corps deployed to lead the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“My customers are over in the war,” he said.
Originally, Bell charged 90 cents per cut. Today, the cost ranges from $8.55 to $10.75.
Bell has cut the hair of 23 Fort Bragg commanders, starting with Lt. Gen. Robert H. York in 1967.
The general walked into Bell’s shop, shook his hand and introduced himself, Bell said.
“I was so nervous, to this day I haven’t told him my name,” he said.
Those nerves would eventually go away. And Bell would become a trusted counselor to Fort Bragg’s leaders.
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, who retired on Fort Bragg last week after a career that culminated as vice chief of staff for the Army, said he sought out Bell to cut his hair one last time before he stepped away from the military.
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill.
Allyn thanked Bell alongside current and former Army leaders.
“Travis has been cutting the hair of airborne troopers for over 50 years,” Allyn said. “He lowered my locks one final time this week. Thank you for not only keeping us looking as good as possible but thanks for your constant reminder of the impact of faith in our lives.”
When not cutting hair, Bell is often seen reading from a Bible he keeps in his shop.
He said he still makes the drive from Lumberton to Fort Bragg each day.
The July 7 celebration was just one way the Fort Bragg community said thanks to Bell. It was also his first day back in a newly remodeled barber shop.
And on July 6, he rode in an airplane for the first time in his life, flying with the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.
Bell still hasn’t been on a plane when it landed, though. The 77-year-old touched the ground while strapped to a member of the parachute team.
“I’m airborne now,” he said July 7, proudly recalling the experience of the day before.
Bell said Fort Bragg is home now.
“They take care of me good around here,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure.”
And after 50 years, the barber has no plans to slow down.
“I’m enjoying it right now,” he said. “I don’t know when I’m going to retire.”
It’s no secret the military is full of soup. Even an FNG could tell you that. There are even more specific alphabet soup acronyms within each branch: the Air Force has OTP, and the Marines have OSM (semi-respectively).
Here’s a couple of acronyms we made up that aren’t in use, but should be.
“Sergeant ran out of real tasks.”
This acronym is used to explain why you are: measuring the length of floor tiles, power washing a lawn chair, or cleaning an actual pile of garbage with Windex. We don’t ask why. We know.
Example: I know we’re outside in the desert, but S.R.O.O.R.T. so now we all have to sweep the dirt.
Images From The Korengal Outpost – The Far Side.
“Only dipping tobacco while on deployment.”
This acronym is the lie you tell yourself while on deployment. It soon warps into the closely related acronym “O.D.T.B.O.D.” which is “Only dipping tobacco because of deployment.”
Example: Yeah, I never used to chew Cope, but I’m O.D.T.W.O.D.
“Good piece of gear.”
This acronym is used to describe a fully functional piece of gear in the military.
Example: *N/A, no plausible use*
“Dinner” aboard the USS Green Bay.
(Sgt. Branden Colston/ USMC)
“Why did I even grab a fork?”
This acronym is used to describe the fine delicatessen cuisine service members enjoy on a ship. It’s food so sparse, so understated, so daringly simple, it begs the question: why did I even grab a fork?”
Example: Welcome aboard, today we will be serving delectable items from the W.D.I.E.G.A.F. cuisine: our first course is a handful of hard white rice, followed by two triangles of cardboard garlic bread, accented with a chalice of warm water. Served sea side. Bon Appetit.
“Not old enough for beer, only for armed combat.”
This is a much needed acronym for the millions of 18-to 21-year-olds in our military who cannot legally buy beer but can legally be trusted with billions of dollars of equipment and the lives of men who are old enough to buy beer. Granted, this one doesn’t really roll off the tongue—but neither does explaining the ancient logic behind this law.
Example: I’ll take an automatic rifle, a crate of C-4 explosives, and a Shirley Temple to drink, sorry I’m N.O.E.F.B.O.F.A.C.
“You make comm awful.”
This is for anybody who never shuts the hell up over comm. They add useless information, make bad jokes, clog up the line, and all kinds of other annoying things.
Example: You don’t have to mouth breath for 3 seconds before saying what you need to say. Y.M.C.A. Over.
“Boy, our operation’s boring, Sgt.”
Sometimes you have said all you need to say. You’ve been in a foreign place with the same 6 dudes for months. You can only talk about how bad the Cleveland Browns are, or what kind of food you wish you could eat, for so long… Sometimes, when you’ve been away for months and don’t have anything to talk about, you just talk about B.O.O.B.S.
North Korea is reportedly planning to conduct military-themed events in observance of the Korean People’s Army’s 70th anniversary on Feb. 8, one day before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, according to an NK News report on Jan. 17.
According to an invitation sent to defense officials and their spouses, North Korea is planning to host “festival functions,” which may include a military parade in the capital of Pyongyang, NK News reported.
“It may not be called ‘a parade,’ but it is highly likely that there would be some kind of event taking place at Kim Il Sung Square,” North Korea analyst Fyodor Tertitskiy said in the report, referring to the parade ground named after the country’s founder. “I don’t think that the [North Koreans] even perceives this as a hostile action: They never canceled their regular parades before and were never requested to do so.”
As Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, noted, satellite images of a nearby airfield indicated that North Korea has been preparing for an event:
Depending on its size and manner of display, the proposed event could spark renewed tensions with South Korea as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics, at a time when memories of the North’s most-recent provocations are still fresh.
South Korea has recently made concessions to the North, including delaying its annual joint-military exercise with the US — an event that North Korea vehemently opposes — until after the Winter Olympics.
Although skeptics remain wary of the bilateral negotiations, dialogue between North and South Korea has progressed after a line of communication was opened in early January. The two nations are currently discussing the logistics of sending a team of North Korean delegates — including an orchestra, cheerleaders, and hockey players — to South Korea to participate in the Olympic Games.
The A-10 Warthog is the only aircraft built for a close air support (CAS) mission. It was literally designed around its distinctive 30mm gatling gun. The gun is more than 19 feet long and weighs more than 4,000 pounds. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (aka the BRRRRRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), is music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so, the plane sometimes called “the grunt in the air.” A-10 pilots often find themselves providing support at Danger Close distances.
“They love this airplane,” says one Air Force A-10 pilot, referring to units on the ground. “They trust us. For them to trust to do that is very gratifying.”
Recently, the John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.
“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”
Combining ground combat footage with access to the aircrews who run and fly the Warthogs, Carr believes the video has “unmistakeable importance,” but wonders if the video is being suppressed by senior Air Force leaders for political reasons.
The controversy stems from the Air Force’s repeated attempts to retire this relatively young fleet of aircraft. The A-10 first appeared in the Air Force arsenal in 1972 and was used with great effect in Operation Desert Storm. Comparatively, the Air Force’s B-52 fleet was first introduced in 1955 and is still in service.
“It’s not a political statement,” says a pilot in the theater. “I’m not saying air interdiction isn’t important … but the benefits [of close air support] are right there.”
The Air Force aims to replace the A-10 with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a trillion-dollar weapons system that is the most expensive in history, which is extremely over-budget and experiencing an uncanny number of development setbacks. While retiring the A-10 would save many billions of dollars annually, that money would likely go to further developing the F-35. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says the F-35 is designed “for the whole battle space” and would replace the A-10’s CAS capabilities.
“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”
The heartfelt, informative A-10 video is below, and is worth a watch for anyone with an interest in the importance of close air support.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has deployed a specially trained debris management team to Hawaii in preparation for anticipated response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Lane, currently a Category 4 storm heading toward the state.
Five personnel — a military officer and four civilians — departed Aug. 22, 2018, for Honolulu to stage assets, along with other personnel from across the Army Corps of Engineers associated with various emergency response capabilities.
“Our team is pre-staging for the storm and proud to assist in the national response to a storm that may cause significant impacts to Hawaii in the coming days,” said Dorie Murphy, chief of emergency management for the Baltimore District. “I’m confident that Baltimore District’s highly competent and experienced debris management team will be a true asset to the larger response mission.”
During contingencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency can assign the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a mission to provide debris management assistance. Baltimore District’s debris planning and response team is one of seven specially trained Corps debris teams across the country.
Satellite Views Category 4 Hurricane Lane at Night
Advising Authorities, Removing Debris
Support can involve technical support and advice to local authorities who may not be familiar with removal and disposal processes for large amounts of debris. It also can involve physically carrying out various debris removal activities.
Baltimore District personnel are prepared to support a large debris removal mission in Hawaii, with additional personnel prepared to deploy in the coming days and weeks.
The Baltimore District also is prepared to deploy its mobile communications vehicle, which provides a full spectrum of communications including radio, satellite and cellular capabilities. The vehicle was deployed to Puerto Rico to help jumpstart response and recovery efforts there last fall after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Baltimore District’s debris experts recently supported debris removal associated with the wildfires in California as well as impacts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Of note, the team supported debris removal in New York following Hurricane Sandy, as well as the large and unique debris removal mission after 9/11.
On Feb. 23, 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein announced that he has Bell’s palsy, a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves. In his speech to airmen at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, he reassured the group that the condition was reversible and he would continue to serve as chief of staff.
“I woke up last Saturday morning with half of my face completely frozen, and it turns out it’s this thing called Bell’s palsy. So here’s the good news: It’s fully recoverable, I’m on the mend, and it only hurts you when I laugh,” he joked.
Goldfein is certainly not the first service member to be diagnosed with the condition — General Curtis LeMay, another Chief of Staff of the Air Force, reportedly had Bell’s palsy. While every military medical waiver is made on a case-by-case basis, service members with Bell’s palsy have a good record of receiving those waivers.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the prognosis for individuals with Bell’s palsy — roughly 40,000 Americans each year — is generally very good. Some cases are mild and subside on their own while others require various treatments, including medication and other therapeutic options.
The rigors of combat leave a lasting impact on many veterans who have proudly served. As painful as it is to admit, as a society, we’ve mostly left these troops to fend for themselves and find their own path in coping and healing.
No two roads to recovery are alike, but there’s one method that’s proven, time and time again, to be an effective way for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to see through the haze — and that’s adopting a support animal.
Whether it’s an officially certified and properly trained service animal or just a pet that offers its unconditional love, it’s been proven that animals can get veterans through their struggles.
As many veterans who are accompanied by a support animal can tell you, a little nudge of love can make the biggest difference in the world. Such is the story of Andrew Einstein and his dog, Gunner.
And the two have been inseparable ever since.
When he was deployed in August, 2011, a grenade went off near Andrew. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the hearing on his right side. The road to recovery was long, lonely, and painful. Without adequate support, Andrew went through dark times. He reached his lowest point less than ten months after the injury, and intended to end his own life.
Thankfully, he made it through the night. The very next day, he met Gunner. He wasn’t the biggest or the most energetic dog, but this little puppy didn’t want to leave Andrew’s side. Gunner chose to stick by Andrew, despite of all the hardships he’s endured.
The bond between the two grew with each passing day. Today, Andrew and Gunner participate together in various runs and obstacle courses across the country. Competition after competition, the pride Andrew has for Gunner, as he successfully navigates the various challenges, can only be described as the pride a parent has for a child.
“Service dogs allow people to live a life they otherwise wouldn’t be able to live because of whatever issue or disability they’re suffering from,” says Andrew. “It’s near impossible to do anything on your own and having a support system — whether it be one dog, a team of people, it doesn’t matter the number — if you don’t get help, you’re gonna get worse. But if you ask for help, you’ll get better. You’re still the same person, nothing changes, except your life getting better.”
Andrew found that support system in Gunner.
To learn more about Andrew and Gunner’s incredible journey — and to explore the amazing ways a service animal can impact lives — visit Nulo’s website.
San Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.
But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.
But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”
The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.
The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.
This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true.
‘A successful biological warfare attack’
It all began in late September 1950, when over a few days, a Navy vessel used giant hoses to spray a fog of two kinds of bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii — both believed at the time to be harmless — out into the fog, where they disappeared and spread over the city.
“It was noted that a successful BW [biological warfare] attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas,” concluded a later-declassified military report, cited by the Wall Street Journal.
Successful indeed, according to Leonard Cole, the director of the Terror Medicine and Security Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. His book, “Clouds of Secrecy,” documents the military’s secret bioweapon tests over populated areas. Cole wrote:
Nearly all of San Francisco received 500 particle minutes per liter. In other words, nearly every one of the 800,000 people in San Francisco exposed to the cloud at normal breathing rate (10 liters per minute) inhaled 5,000 or more particles per minute during the several hours that they remained airborne.
This was among the first but far from the last of these sorts of tests.
Over the next 20 years, the military would conduct 239 “germ-warfare” tests over populated areas, according to news reports from the 1970s (after the secret tests had been revealed) in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other publications (via Lexis-Nexis), and also detailed in congressional testimony from the 1970s.
These tests included the large-scale releases of bacteria in the New York City subway system, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and in National Airport just outside Washington, DC.
In a 1994 congressional testimony, Cole said that none of this had been revealed to the public until a 1976 newspaper story revealed the story of a few of the first experiments — though at least a Senate subcommittee had heard testimony about experiments in New York City in 1975, according to a 1995 Newsday report.
A mysterious death
When Edward Nevin III, the grandson of the Edward Nevin who died in 1950, read about one of those early tests in San Francisco, he connected the story to his grandfather’s death from a mysterious bacterial infection. He began to try to convince the government to reveal more data about these experiments. In 1977, they released a report detailing more of that activity.
In 1950, the first Edward Nevin had been recovering from a prostate surgery when he suddenly fell ill with a severe urinary-tract infection containing Serratia marcescens, the theoretically harmless bacterium that’s known for turning bread red in color. The bacteria had reportedly never been found in the hospital before and was rare in the Bay Area (and in California in general).
The bacteria spread to Nevin’s heart and he died a few weeks later.
Another 10 patients showed up in the hospital over the next few months, all with pneumonia symptoms and the odd presence of Serratia marcescens. They all recovered.
Nevin’s grandson tried to sue the government for wrongful death, but the court held that the government was immune to a lawsuit for negligence and that they were justified in conducting tests without subjects’ knowledge. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Army stated that infections must have occurred inside the hospital and the US Attorney argued that they had to conduct tests in a populated area to see how a biological agent would affect that area.
In 2005, the FDA stated that “Serratia marcescens bacteria … can cause serious, life-threatening illness in patients with compromised immune systems.” The bacteria has shown up in a few other Bay Area health crises since the 1950s, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, leading to some speculation that the original spraying could have established a new microbial population in the area.
While Nevin lost his lawsuit, he said afterward, as quoted by Cole, “At least we are all aware of what can happen, even in this country … I just hope the story won’t be forgotten.”
As an overseas hub for U.S. military bases, Okinawa, Japan is known among troops for its beautiful coastline, hot and humid weather, and a unique fusion food simply referred to as TRC.
“Tacos had already been introduced to Okinawa by the Americans, but it was more like a snack – not very filling for Americans. And it was something you couldn’t find at a restaurant,” Parlor Senri restaurant’s Sayuri Shimabukuro Shimabukuro told Stripes Okinawa. “Matsuzo decided to substitute the taco shell with rice, which is relatively faster to cook and also filling. Parlor Senri’s customers were 100 percent Americans, and in order for the wait staff to explain the dish, he named it taco rice.”
TRC, or “Taco, Rice, and Cheese,” — a Mexican-Japanese fusion dish that exists only because of the U.S. military presence on the island — is most simply put, a giant taco salad with rice instead of the taco shell. First introduced on the island in 1984, it’s now a staple among U.S. service-members stationed there.
The dish is so popular among troops that most shops that serve it are literally walking distance from the base gates. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.
There’s considerable debate among shop owners as to who came up with TRC first. According to Stripes Okinawa, multiple shops in Kin (the town outside Camp Hansen) claim it was their idea. But while we’re trying to figure out who cooked it first, you can always make it yourself at home.
That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.
“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”
That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.
The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.
The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.
Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.
DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”
The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48″ x 66″ x 100″ – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.
The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.
An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.
The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.
He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”
The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.
“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement.
A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.
“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”
Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.
“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.
It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.
“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.
“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.
LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.
The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.
While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said.
Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.
Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integraed Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns.
“Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,” Beutner added.
In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons.