A remote control airplane hobbyist has modified a model A-10 Thunderbolt II to conduct Nerf strafing runs on T-72 cardboard tanks and uploaded the results to YouTube. The modified, remote control A-10 can fire 12 paper-tank-busting Nerf balls in under half a second. You know, just in case your yard is overrun with mini Soviet tanks.
The RC A-10 can also fire three darts for taking out hard targets. Though reportedly not made from depleted uranium, the darts have more heft and better ballistic properties than the Nerf rounds, but they’re still loaded into the primary tube. That means backyard commanders have to decide their weapons layouts before the mission. It’s three darts or 12 balls, not both.
Both primary weapon loads of the A-10 are on display in the full video:
Despite its impressive performance against cardboard tanks and low cost, the RC A-10 has a number of drawbacks that will likely prevent its purchase by the Air Force.
First, the RC A-10 is manufactured by an untested contractor, YouTube user ajw61185. More importantly, it fires all of its rounds in a single burst, requiring it to return to its base to rearm after a single pass.
Critics of the RC A-10 point out that it was developed for a very different yard than exists today and claim the platform is simply outdated. Modern yards contain advanced sprinklers that the RC A-10 has no countermeasures with which to defend itself. The more stealthy RC F-35 might be able to avoid many of these sprinklers, but it has yet to reach the fleet due to frequent cost overruns and malfunctions.
Still, the RC A-10 is probably fine for home use and so could be used by defense-minded property owners to deter cross-border actions by stray dogs, squirrels, and other aggressors.
An American-born ISIS fighter has been captured in Syria by Kurdish forces, Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast report.
The Beast report cited multiple US military spokespersons as being “aware of reports” that a US citizen was captured, while a source familiar with the situation told the site the unnamed fighter had “surrendered.”
US military officials confirmed the capture to CNN and Fox News. CNN’s Ryan Browne reported the American was in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the US-backed militia spearheading the push into the ISIS capital of Raqqa.
“We are aware of that report,” a State Department spokesperson told Business Insider, referring to The Daily Beast. “We have no information to share at this time.”
A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military-led coalition leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This would not be the first case of an American being captured while fighting for the terror group. Mohamed Khweis, 27, originally from Virginia, joined the group and later surrendered to Kurdish authorities in 2016, according to NBC News. He was later convicted of providing material support to ISIS and faces a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.
Citizens of Hawaii are advised to look out for emergency sirens, alerts, wireless notifications, or flashes of “brilliant white light” that will indicate that a nuclear detonation is incoming or underway.
From there, the agency instructs citizens to get indoors, stay indoors, and stay tuned via radio as “cell phone, television, radio, and internet services will be severely disrupted or unavailable.” Instead, expect only local radio stations to survive and function.
If indoors, citizens should avoid windows. If driving, citizens should pull off the road to allow emergency vehicles access to population centers. Once inside, Hawaiians should not leave home until instructed to or for two full weeks, as dangerous nuclear fallout could sicken or kill them.
More than 120 wounded warriors from the Air Force and Army gathered March 1, 2019, to officially open the sixth annual Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base.
The Air Force Trials, which run through March 7, 2019, are part of an adaptive and resiliency sports program designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the wounded, ill and injured service members who participate.
Retired Capt. Rob Hufford, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program ambassador and athlete, celebrates as he is honored for his Invictus Games achievements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact the Wounded Warrior program, or AFW2, has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program.
Members from the Air Force Wounded Warrior team pay respect to the flag during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
The Trials are also a test of the athletes’ resiliency, strength, and endurance, according to Col. Michael Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director.
“It’s vitally important for their recovery we rebuild their sense of purpose, their sense of self and their sense of confidence,” said Flatten, during remarks at the ceremony. “Everybody in the world is going to tell them what they can’t do, we’re here to tell them what they can.”
A member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team glides into the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
The event features 10 different adaptive sports: powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, swimming, shooting, rowing, track and field, archery, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.
The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.
Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, Air Force Personnel Center command chief, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
“It’s an awesome day here at Nellis,” said Air Force Personnel Center command chief Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey. “The intent of this event is to promote the health, wellness and recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans,” said Lindsey. “During these trials, participants will build comradery and confidence as they continue to recover.”
This year, the participants are made up of 53 active duty, 15 Air National Guard and Reserve and 72 Air Force veterans. Also attending the Trials are 32 caregivers, who play an important role in athlete care and recovery.
Col. Michael J. Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
During the ceremony, the athletes were recognized by service, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue performed a parachute demonstration, two HH-60 Pave Hawks from the 66th Rescue Squadron flew a two-ship formation and the Trials torch, carried by Air Force members from the 2018 U.S. Invictus Team, was lit.
Athletes pose for a group photo during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
The Trials are part of the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior program (AFW2), which is a congressionally mandated and federally funded organization administered by AFPC in San Antonio, Texas. The program includes recovery care coordinators, non-medical care managers, and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to guide them through various day-to-day challenges.
The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of the wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.
North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.
“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.
China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.
The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.
Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.
Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.
High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.
Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.
“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.
Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.
Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.
North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.
A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.
The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.
The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).
On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.
That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.
The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.
The Armata family of vehicles, with the flagship T-14 main battle tank, were supposed to be the future of armored warfare, tipping the balance of conventional forces in Europe back towards Russia and ensuring the country’s security and foreign might. But now, Russia has announced that it will be buying only 100 of them, far from the 2,300 once threatened and a sure sign that crippling economic problems are continuing to strangle Putin’s military.
Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank was supposed to put Russian armor back on top, but the design and tech are still questionable and Russia is only buying 100 of them, meaning very few of them will be available for operations at any one time.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
All of this will likely be welcome news for U.S. armored forces who would have faced the T-14s in combat if Russia used them against American allies and NATO forces.
The signs of trouble for the Armata tank were hidden in the project’s debut. It’s always suspicious when a tank or other weapon project seems too good to be true. Snake oil salesmen can profit in the defense industry, too. And there were few projects promising more revolutionary breakthroughs for less money than the T-14.
It is supposed to weigh just 70 percent of the Abrams (48 tons compared to the Abrams’ 68) but still be able to shake off rounds from enemy tanks thanks to advanced armor designs. Its developers bragged of an extremely capable autoloader, a remote turret, and an active protection system that could defeat any incoming missile.
When something sounds too good to be true, maybe check the fine print.
Still, it wouldn’t have been impossible to come up with a breakthrough design to shake up the armored world. After all, while the Abrams was expensive to develop, it featured some revolutionary technology. Its armor was lighter and more capable thanks to ceramic technology developed in Britain, and its engines, while fuel-hungry, delivered massive amounts of power. These factors combined to create a fast, agile beast capable of surviving nearly any round that enemy tanks could shoot at it.
Russia’s Su-57 has design flaws and under-strength engines, causing many to wonder if it would really rival American fifth-generation fighters if it even went into serial production.
(Photo by Anna Zvereva)
None of this money problem is a surprise. Russia is subject to a slew of international sanctions resulting from actions like the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and meddling in European and U.S. elections. While sanctions generally act as a minor drag on healthy economies, they have a compounding effect on weak economies.
And make no mistake: Russia’s economy is weak. It is heavily tied to oil prices which, just a few years ago, would’ve been great news. From 2010 to 2014, oil often peaked above 0 per barrel for days or weeks at a time and was usually safely above a barrel. Now, it typically trades between and a barrel and has slumped as low as .
Keep in mind that, typically, military strength trends with economic strength; more money, more might. But Russia has struggled to maintain its world-power status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its annual GDP is actually smaller than that of Texas, California, or New York. That’s right. If Russia was a state, it would have the fourth largest economy in the country.
Still, Russia can’t be written off. It’s either the second or third most powerful military in the world, depending on who you ask. And the other slot is held by China, another rival of American power. With thousands of tanks and fighters in each country’s arsenal, as well as millions of service members, both countries will remain major threats for decades or longer.
Army instructors at Fort Benning, Georgia recently opened a new drone training school to teach young soldiers to become as familiar with these tiny flying devices as they are handling M4 carbines.
The 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade opened its new small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS, course facility June 11, 2018, and recently began giving classes to basic trainees “so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units,” Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class, said in a recent Defense Department news release.
Students at the SUAS course showed basic trainees how the drones fly and how to describe them if they see one flying over their formation.
Capt. Sean Minton, commander of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Trainees also learn how to hide from an enemy drone and disperse to avoid heavy casualties from drone-directed field artillery.
“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”
Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a humming bird, according to the release.
The students who attend the SUAS course are typically infantry soldiers and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said.
Having trained and certified experts from the course builds trust among company and troop-level commanders so they worry less about losing drones because they distrust their drone pilots’ skills, Dominguez said.
Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo teaches precision flying at the course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.
“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location, and you can do what you need to do.”
The new drone schoolhouse was created inside a former convenience store.
“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, during the SUAS building opening event.
“For several years now it was operating in small, cramped classrooms insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.
The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”
Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw
“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”
This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.
“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”
This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.
The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.
The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.
Early reports suggest National Security Advisor John Bolton presented a plan that called for 120,000 U.S. troops to counter Iran, just in case the Islamic Republic ups the ante by attacking American forces or starts building nuclear weapons again.
Tensions in the region are reaching a fever pitch as the United States sends more warships, including the USS Abraham Lincoln into the Persian Gulf and the Saudis accuse Iran of attacking oil tankers using armed drones. According to the New York Times, Bolton’s plan does not include a ground invasion force. But John Bolton is no moderate when it comes to regime change, and there’s no way his plan for the United States toppling the Iranian regime precludes a ground invasion.
The guy who openly admits he joined the National Guard because he didn’t want to die in a rice paddy in Vietnam has no problem sending your kids to die in Iran.
Bolton has openly advocated for the U.S. to use military power to foment regime change everywhere from Syria and Iran to North Korea and Venezuela. Bolton even backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and still maintains it was a good idea, despite everyone else, from historians to President Bush himself, admitting it was a costly, bungled pipe dream. President Bush soon learned from his mistakes and Bolton’s career was wisely kicked back into the loony bin where it belongs.
But there’s a new President in office, one who has elevated Bolton and his hawkish sentiment to the post of National Security Advisor. While Bolton may have presented a plan without an invasion force, it’s very likely he has one somewhere that does include an invasion, and 120,000 troops will not be enough.
John Bolton is a mouth just begging for a sock.
The extra seapower is likely just the beginning of the overall plan to topple the Islamic Republic. A complete naval blockade in the Persian Gulf would be necessary to cut Iran off from outside supplies, help from the Revolutionary Guards Corps forces, and protect international shipping lanes. This sounds like it should be easy for the U.S. Navy, but Iran’s unconventional naval forces could prove difficult to subdue without American losses.
That would be a significant escalation, perhaps even enough to subdue the Iranian regime for the time being. But that’s not John Bolton’s style, as cyber attacks would work to cripple what military, economic, and physical infrastructure it could while U.S. troops deploy inside Iran. The Islamic Republic is firmly situation between Iraq and a hard place, both countries where American troops are deployed and have freedom to move.
The worldwide demand for white Toyota pickups is about to skyrocket. Or land rocket. Because of Javelins.
Then the ground game will begin. Tier one forces from the U.S. Special Operations command will conduct leadership strikes and capture or destroy command and control elements. Other special operators will have to engage Iranian special forces inside Iran and wherever else they’re deployed near U.S. troops, especially in Iraq and Syria. It’s likely that Army Special Forces would link up with anti-regime fighters inside Iran to foment an internal uprising against the regime.
Meanwhile, the main ground invasion force will have to contend with some 500,000 defenders, made up of Iran’s actual army, unconventional Quds Force troops, Shia militias like those seen in the Iraq War and the fight against ISIS, and potentially more unconventional forces and tactics.
Conventional American troops will seal the country off along its borders, especially the porous ones next to Iraq and Afghanistan, where significant numbers of American combat troops are already deployed. The combined squeeze of American troops from the East and West along with the naval blockade of the Persian Gulf would be akin to Winfield Scott’s Civil War-era Anaconda Plan, which crippled Confederate supply lines while strangling the South. American forces would move from the northern areas to southern Iran in a multi-pronged movement.
The first prong would be a thrust from the northwest into the southern oil fields and into the Strait of Hormuz, securing Iranian oil and shipping infrastructure. The second prong would move right into northern Iran, cutting it off from its northern neighbors. The final thrust would likely cut Tehran off from the outside while keeping an eye on the border with Pakistan.
Kinda like this except in the desert… and the Indians are very different.
While Iran’s borders with Iraq and Afghanistan make moving U.S. troops to the Iranian combat zone easier, it also leaves America’s supply lines vulnerable to attack. These would need to be reinforced and protected at every opportunity and are vulnerable to sympathetic forces that could be exploited by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Quds Forces, as all routes into Afghanistan pass through Iranian neighbors or their allies, which include Pakistan.
How long this would take is anyone’s guess, but the United States managed to build up its forces and topple Saddam Hussein’s Iranian regime in less than a year, though CIA operatives had been in-country with opposition forces for longer. If the CIA or American special operations troops are already inside Iran, then the invasion has already begun.
Following a flurry of reports in December 2017 predicting the Navy’s $500 million electromagnetic railgun experiment was dead on arrival, the chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers in March 2018 that the death of the program was greatly exaggerated.
“[We are] fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it,” Adm. John Richardson told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense during a hearing on Navy and Marine Corps budget issues. “We’ve demonstrated it at lower firing rates and … shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range.”
Richardson was responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who expressed concern about the proven capability of the Navy’s railgun weapon, which has yet to leave its test site at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia.
“My understanding is these weapons can fire projectiles at extremely high speeds with a range exceeding a hundred miles once fully operational,” Ryan said. “I know China has demonstrated a capability for shipboard railguns, and I’m just concerned, again, that maybe we’re falling short here.”
Photos showing what appears to be a railgun mounted on the Chinese landing ship tankHaiyang Shan emerged in February 2018. The evidence of what appears to be deployable Chinese railgun technology came to light following a handful of reports indicating the Navy’s own gun development program was losing steam.
Business Insider reported in December 2017 that the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities office was shifting research efforts from the railgun, which uses electromagnetic energy to shoot large projectiles at speeds of up to 4,500 miles per hour, to broader high-velocity projectile study.
The Navy has never acknowledged a loss of interest in railgun technology, however. July 2017, officials with the Office of Naval Research told reporters that the power behind the gun would be increased to 32 megajoules over the summer, giving the weapon a range of 110 miles.
In testimony released March 7, 2018, Richardson indicated the weapon had yet to reach that range in spite of predictions.
“That involves a number of technologies,” he said. “The barrel itself is probably the limiting case, the engineering on that, the materials required to sustain that power pulse, and the heat and pressure that’s involved in launching those projectiles. And we’re doubling down on that.”
Engineers have found the gun’s barrel wears out rapidly when metal projectiles are fired at the blistering rates the railgun’s technology delivers. Another unresolved issue is the power source for the gun; currently, only the new three-ship Zumwalt class of class of mega-destroyers is reportedly capable of supplying the electromagnetic charge needed to operate the gun. The Navy wants to deploy a version of the railgun aboard smaller-sized destroyers.
While Richardson acknowledged the challenges and said Navy brass were “very conscious” of reported Chinese achievements in railgun technology, he maintained the service was still invested in the program.
“As a benefit, too, of the program — the railgun program, we have developed a projectile — high-velocity projectile, which is actually usable across the fleet in a number of different applications, not only in the railgun,” Richardson said. “And so, it’s a very fruitful program that we continue to invest in.”
U.S. Army leaders say the next war will be fought in mega-cities, but the service has embarked on an ambitious effort to prepare most of its combat brigades to fight, not inside, but beneath them.
Late 2017, the Army launched an accelerated effort that funnels some $572 million into training and equipping 26 of its 31 active combat brigades to fight in large-scale subterranean facilities that exist beneath dense urban areas around the world.
For this new type of warfare, infantry units will need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, breach heavy obstacles, and attack enemy forces in underground mazes ranging from confined corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as complete darkness, bad air, and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas that challenge standard Army communications equipment.
Senior leaders have mentioned small parts of the effort in public speeches, but Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Maneuver Center of Excellence — the organization leading the subterranean effort — have been reluctant to discuss the scale of the endeavor.
(U.S. Army photo by John Lytle)
“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘ok, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter, so let’s brush it up a little bit.”
Left unmentioned were the recent studies the Army has undertaken to shore up this effort. The Army completed a four-month review in 2017 of its outdated approach to underground combat, and published a new training manual dedicated to this environment.
“This training circular is published to provide urgently needed guidance to plan and execute training for units operating in subterranean environments, according to TC 3-20.50 “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments,” published in November 2017. “Though prepared through an ‘urgent’ development process, it is authorized for immediate implementation.”
A New Priority
The Army has always been aware that it might have to clear and secure underground facilities such as sewers and subway systems beneath densely-populated cities. In the past, tactics and procedures were covered in manuals on urban combat such as FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman’s Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas,” dated 1993.
Before the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission for taking large, underground military complexes was given to tier-one special operations units such as Army Delta Force and the Navy‘s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.
But the Pentagon’s new focus on preparing to fight peer militaries such as North Korea, Russia and China changed all that.
An assessment last year estimates that there are about 10,000 large-scale underground military facilities around the world that are intended to serve as subterranean cities, an Army source, who is not cleared to talk to the press, told Military.com.
The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group — an outfit often tasked with looking ahead to identify future threats — told U.S. military leaders that special operations forces will not be able to deal with the subterranean problem alone and that large numbers of conventional forces must be trained and equipped to fight underground, the source said.
The endeavor became an urgent priority because more than 4,800 of these underground facilities are located in North Korea, the source said.
Relations now seem to be warming between Washington and Pyongyang after the recent meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But in addition to its underground nuclear missile facilities, North Korea has the capability to move thousands of troops through deep tunnels beneath the border into South Korea, according to the Army’s new subterranean manual.
“North Korea could accommodate the transfer of 30,000 heavily armed troops per hour,” the manual states. “North Korea had planned to construct five southern exits and the tunnel was designed for both conventional warfare and guerrilla infiltration. Among other things, North Korea built a regimental airbase into a granite mountain.”
For its part, Russia inherited a vast underground facilities program from the Soviet Union, designed to ensure the survival of government leadership and military command and control in wartime, the manual states. Underground bunkers, tunnels, secret subway lines, and other facilities still beneath Moscow, other major Russian cities, and the sites of major military commands.
More recently, U.S. and coalition forces operating in Iraq and Syria have had to deal with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operating in tunnel systems.
Learning to Fight Underground
To prepare combat units, the Army has activated mobile teams to train the leadership of 26 brigade combat teams on how prepare units for underground warfare and plan and execute large-scale combat operations in the subterranean environment.
The 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado is next in line for the training.
Army officials confirmed to Military.com that there is an approved plan to dedicate $572 million to the effort. That works out to $22 million for each BCT, according to an Army spokeswoman who did not want to be named for this article. The Army did not say where the money is coming from or when it will be given to units.
Army leaders launched the subterranean effort in 2017, tasking the AWG with developing a training program. The unit spent October-January at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, units will need to fight in this environment.
“Everything that you can do above ground, you can do below ground; there are just tactics and techniques that are particular,” the source said, adding that tactics used in a subterranean space are much like those used in clearing buildings.
(U.S. Army photo by Erick Warren)
“The principles are exactly the same, but now do it without light, now do it in a confined space … now try to breach a door using a thermal cutting torch when you don’t have air.”
Three training teams focus on heavy breaching, TTPs and planning and a third to train the brigade leadership on intelligence priorities and how to prepare for brigade-size operations in subterranean facilities.
“The whole brigade will be learning the operation,” the source said.
Army combat units train in mock-up towns known as military operations in urban terrain, or MOUT, sites. These training centers often have sewers to deal with rain water, but are too small to use for realistic training, the source said.
The Defense Department has a half-dozen locations that feature subterranean networks. They’re located at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Story, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana; Tunnel Warfare Center, China Lake, California and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, according to the new subterranean training manual.
Rather sending infrastructure to these locations, units will build specially designed, modular subterranean trainers, created by the AWG in 2014. The completed maze-like structure is fashioned from 15 to 20 shipping containers, or conexes, and sits above ground.
Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about these new training structures at the Association of the United States Army’s LANPAC 2018 symposium in Hawaii.
“I was just at the Asymmetric Warfare Group recently; they had built a model subterranean training center that now the Army is in the process of exporting to the combat training centers and home stations,” Townsend said.
“I was thinking to myself before I went and saw it, ‘how are we going to be able to afford to build all these underground training facilities?’ Well, they took me into one that wasn’t underground at all. It actually looked like you went underground at the entrance, but the facility was actually built above ground.But you couldn’t tell that once you went inside of it.”
Shipping containers are commonplace around the Army, so units won’t have to buy special materials to build the trainers, Hedrick said.
“Every post has old, empty conexes … and those are easily used to simulate working underground,” Hedrick said.
Training is only part of the subterranean operations effort. A good portion of the $22 million going to each BCT will be needed buy special equipment so combat units can operate safety underground.
“You can’t go more than one floor deep underground without losing comms with everybody who is up on the surface,” Townsend said. “Our capabilities need some work.”
The Army is looking at the handheld MPU-5 smart radio, made by Persistent Systems LLC, which features a new technology and relies on a “mobile ad hoc network” that will allow units to talk to each other and to the surface as well.
“It sends out a signal that combines with the one next to it, and the one next to it … it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” the source said.
Off the shelf, MPU-5s coast approximately $10,000 each.
Toxic air, or a drop in oxygen, are other challenges soldiers will be likely to face operating deep underground. The Army is evaluating off-the-shelf self-contained breathing equipment for units to purchase.
“Protective masks without a self-contained breathing apparatus provide no protection against the absence of oxygen,” the subterranean manual states. “Having breathing apparatus equipment available is the primary protection element against the absence of oxygen, in the presence of hazardous gases, or in the event of a cave-in.”
Soldiers can find themselves exposed to smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane natural gas underground, according to the manual.
Breathing gear is expensive; some apparatus cost as much as $13,000 apiece, the source said.
Underground tunnels and facilities are often lighted, but when the lights go out, soldiers will be in total darkness. The Army announced in February 2018 that it has money in its fiscal 2019 budget to buy dual-tubed, binocular-style night vision goggles to give soldiers greater depth perception than offered by the current single-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and AN/PVS 14s.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle B uses a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the PVS-14 along with a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display. The Army is considering equipping units trained in subterranean ops with ENVG Bs, the source said.
Units will also need special, hand-carried ballistic shields, at least two per squad, since tunnels provide little to no cover from enemy fire.
Weapon suppressors are useful to cut down on noise that’s significantly amplified in confined spaces, the manual states.
Some of the heavy equipment such as torches and large power saws needed for breaching are available in brigade engineer units, Hedrick said.
“We definitely did put some effort into trying to identify a list of normal equipment that may not work and what equipment that we might have to look at procuring,” Hedrick said.
Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for new American Security, was skeptical about the scale of the program.
Dempsey, a former Army infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, told Military.com that such training “wasn’t relevant” to fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He questions spending such a large amount of money training and equipping so many of the Army’s combat brigades in a type of combat that they might never need.
“I can totally understand taking every brigade in Korea, Alaska, some of the Hawaii units — any units on tap for first response for something going on in Korea,” said Dempsey, who served in the combat units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.
“Conceptually I don’t knock it. The only reason I would question it is if it comes with a giant bill and new buys of a bunch of specialized gear. … It’s a whole new business line for folks whose business tapered off after Afghanistan.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.
Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.
10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier
Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.
9. He was described as “Squared Away”
During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”
While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off. When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”
7. There were some red flags
In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.
First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.
Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.
Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.
6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”
Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.
In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”
4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog
During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.
The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.
By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”
1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty
The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.
While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.