US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

U.S. airstrikes, in response to what it called an “unprovoked attack,” killed around 100 people in Syria in February according to the Pentagon, but a new report from Bloomberg says that number may be as many as 300, and that they were Russian mercenaries.


If true, the battle may mark the deadliest encounter between the Cold War rivals in decades.

While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, U.S. and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.

If the U.S. did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Syrian Arab trainees await commands from an instructor at a Syrian Democratic Forces’ rifle marksmanship range in Northern Syria, July 31, 2017. Small arms and ammunition represent the majority of support from Coalition Forces to the SDF, the most capable and reliable force in Syria currently making daily gains to reclaim Raqqah from the hold of ISIS. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it portrays as peacekeeping and inexpensive.

Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.

“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the U.S. has trained, equipped, and backed for years.

The river acts as a border between the coalition and Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t a mistake.

Syrian regime forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 regime troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems on the U.S.-backed SDF headquarters in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east of the Euphrates River.

Also Read: US troops make pro-Assad forces pay for attack on American allies

Regime forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20-30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, where some U.S. troops were embedded, according to Pentagon press secretary Dana W. White.

The U.S.-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.

The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF soldier.  Days later, a U.S. jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank that had fired on U.S. and SDF forces, the Pentagon told Business Insider.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 pieces of gear vets will still use in the civilian world

The Central Issuing Facility loans plenty of great and not-so-great items to the troops. Many pieces of gear, like the load-bearing vest and the elbow pads, were tossed back with no remorse, but others are just too damn useful to part with.


Whether they’re listed as expendable, given to the troops with no intention of reclamation, or they’re swapped with a second one bought at the surplus store off-installation, troops just can’t part with these things.

 
US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
The MOLLE straps let you know that it’s legit — not some imitation. (Photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

 

Assault pack

Go to any college campus in America and within ten seconds, you’ll identify who’s using the GI Bill to pay for tuition. Rarely will a vet switch back to a civilian backpack after using the assault pack.

It’s much sturdier than anything you can find in the back-to-school section and it’s free, so… why not?

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Even if vets have the options, they’ll only use the multi-tool.
(Photo by Pedro Vera)

 

Multi-tool

Most civilians will stockpile an entire drawer full of miscellaneous tools. Veterans who were issued a multi-tool will just use the one.

Sure, civilians can get their own versions, but there’s just something badass about fixing stuff around the house with a Gerber that has a front sight post adjuster.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Basically what every veteran’s closet looks like. (Photo by Mike Kaplan)

 

Duffel bags

Throughout a troop’s career, they sign off a lot of junk that’s never going to be touched again — even after they clear CIF for the last time. This leads to every veteran owning their very own “duffel bag full of crap.”

The bag may get re-purposed for storing other things, but nine times out of ten, it’s still full of the same crap that was stuffed in there years ago.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
I’m totally not talking about myself… Totally. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor Newman)

 

E-tool

Standard shovels are far too bulky to keep around. Collapsing an entrenching tool and tossing it in the trunk is kind of necessary if you live in a state that gets terrible snowfall.

Even if you’re not using it to get your car out of a snowbank because you’re too damn proud to call someone for help and you want to prove to yourself that you’re still a competent survivor and driver, it still makes for a great way to dig holes at a moment’s notice.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Just sayin’. After people stop mocking you for wearing snivel gear, your resistance to the weather goes down — fast. (Photo by Airman Areca T. Bell)

 

Thermals

Troops don’t often get the chance to wear their thermals while in the military without enduring ridicule from their peers. The moment they get out, they finally have the opporunity.

The same thermals can be spotted on both veterans who are out hunting and veterans that just don’t feel like wearing civilian pajamas.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Doesn’t matter if our older brothers hate it. We don’t mind being hated and comfortable.
(Photo by Spc. Michael Sharp)
 

Poncho liner

After veterans get out, they’ll be cuddling on the couch with their significant other, watching TV while draped in some regular old throw blanket. But it just isn’t the same. It’s not their poncho liner or, as it’s more affectionately known, their woobie.

That throw blanket from Bed, Bath, and Beyond didn’t deploy with them. That throw blanket wasn’t their only companion in the bizarrely cold desert nights. That throw blanket wasn’t the only piece of military gear that was fielded with the express intention of being used for comfort.

No, only the woobie holds that special place in the hearts of younger veterans.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
The greatest ten-cent beer opener ever!
(Courtesy photo)

 

P-38 can openers

These items aren’t really ranked in any particular order. But if they were, the can opener would certainly top the list. Many troops swear that their beloved woobie is the most cherished, but older generations of veterans will confess a deep love for their can opener.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 14 edition)

Here are the headlines you need to know about going into the weekend (whatever that is. Around WATM we call it “two working days until Monday”):


Now: 11 weapons from pop culture we could totally use right now

Articles

This is why the US could leave Al Udeid

The sudden move by a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in early June to cut ties with and blockade Qatar perplexed US military officials and policymakers.


The Saudi-led coalition has made a series of demands of Doha for dropping the blockade, to which Qatar has shown no sign of assenting.

The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr.)

Trump was asked about the effect of the crisis on Al Udeid during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that aired on July 12.

“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”

Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”

When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”

The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.

Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.

And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrive at Al Udeid Air Base. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.

The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.

Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.

But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.

“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier was killed supporting freedom in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Soldiers of Delta Company, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish folding a flag in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., April 17, 2013. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

Sgt. First Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations. He was assigned to 2d Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes of the week of May 18th

Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).


Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via /r/AirForce)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via American AF)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via the Salty Soldier)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia condemns British plan for new military bases

Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.


Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.

He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.

Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.

“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.

Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.

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

Articles

The Pentagon and Silicon Valley are at odds over AI weapons

The Pentagon, via the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is seeking $12-15 million to develop weapons which would select and engage targets without human intervention. The people who develop artificial intelligence think it’s possible that such weapons will exist within years instead of decades, including “armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria.” And those developers aren’t thrilled about it one bit.


US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Neither was Captain America, but I’m pretty sure he took care of the whole problem.

Current AI technology is built on the premise of human non-intervention. For example, on Patriot missile batteries, the automated system will select and destroy a target unless the user opts out, which can have disastrous consequences, especially for friendly fighter pilots trying not to die from Patriot missile attacks, because the AI isn’t always as smart as we like to think it is.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Willie sees you. Willie don’ care.

So with a current fail-safe system less secure than an iTunes gift card, why don’t American lawmakers and generals try to take a hint about the”AI Arms Race” from the most trusted, brilliant, and influential nerds who trying to warn us? Nerds like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak?

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
This pretty much sums it up.

The Defense Department says it’s to make the human more effective in combat. Because as anyone who’s ever lost their mobile phone knows, having all your numbers stored under names like “Josie Drunk Girl” and “Do Not Answer” makes your memory soooooooo much better.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Technology!

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
ANALYSIS COMPLETE

But the list goes on. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the new technologies the Pentagon wants to develop will allow commanders to identify and analyze enemy defenses.

Further technological innovations would include wearable electronics, exoskeletons, greater use of drones and manned aircraft working together, and mother ships that would send out mini-drones to execute military missions, all of which could incorporate AI.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

The announcement comes not just against the urging of America’s tech mogul community, but also amid skepticism from within the Defense Department’s own ranks, presumably until Deputy Secretary Work actually told a packed conference at the Center for a New American Security the DoD wants to be able to “kick the crap out of people who grew up under an authoritarian reign,” at which point, I imagine they erupted in cheers and then partied like a group of tailgating Buffalo Bills fans.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

Traditionally, field artillery is known as the King of Battle. It’s not hard to imagine why, either. Throughout the history of warfare, the ability to project firepower at a distance has always been one of the most important assets any commander could ask for, and time and time again, artillery proved its worth.


Even before the advent of the cannon, catapults and trebuchets hurled massive stones that could shatter castle walls, bringing sieges that could last for months to an end in a matter of days. Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus’s effective use of artillery at the Battle of Breitenfeld proved decisive, especially once he was able to capture the enemy’s guns and turn them against their own formations.

During the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the Revolutionary War, the fighting grew so intense at one point that, in order to break up the fighting, General Cornwallis was forced to load his cannon with grapeshot, and fire them into the thickest part of the melee. Doing so killed many of his own men, but forced the lines to disengage. He would ultimately take the field, though at great cost.

Napoleon was famously fond of artillery and artillerymen, once remarking that God fought on the side with the best artillery. Generals and kings throughout history have heaped praise upon praise on the redlegs and their guns, but in recent years, people have started to wonder whether they were going the way of the cavalry charge: an increasingly useless anachronism, soon to be eliminated from modern armies the world over in favor of more modern technological terrors.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 14 Field Artillery, 214th Fires Brigade, fire a rocket from a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Fort Carson, Colo., March 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/Released)

After all, they argue, we have bombers that can drop precision guided munitions of astounding power and accuracy. Cruise missiles can be launched from submarines and ships, and can be made to fly into a particular window. Why do we even need the guns and the peculiar breed of soldier that takes pride in calling themselves redlegs?

Well, for starters, all those planes and cruise missiles? They cost money. Lots of it. A single Tomahawk cruise missile costs upwards of a million dollars. Not only are bombers hideously expensive to fly, they suck up unbelievable amounts of money just sitting on the ground.

Meanwhile, a gun tube or a HIMARS or MLRS launcher is dirt cheap in comparison. They’re relatively easy to repair when they break. Their crews also don’t require months or years of highly specialized training. All they need is a few weeks of school, some experienced officers and NCOs to show them the ropes, some extraordinarily filthy pornography, and they’re good to go.

And, unlike aircraft, they can sit in one place for more than a few hours without crashing into the ground. You can park a firing battery in the middle of nowhere, bring them in food and ammo on occasion, and they’re perfectly happy. Well, not happy happy, since no redleg worth the name is ever truly happy unless they’re dropping 155 millimeters of freedom on some poor bastard’s head, but keeping them pissed off just means they’ll kill more bad guys.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
A U.S. Army Soldier from 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, 214th Fires Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla., unfolds an antenna on an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems vehicle during a radio check, March 6, 2015. U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/Released)

And, while they’re sitting out there on a fire base in the middle of nowhere, troops on the ground have access to an on call resource that can put rounds on target any time, day or night, 365 days a year. They’re not grounded because of bad weather. A cannon crew can put rounds downrange in conditions that would make even the ballsiest pilot think twice, and they can keep the heavy hate coming until all that’s left of the target is rubble and slowly cooling chunks of meat.

They’re also getting into the precision fires game, especially with the advent of GPS guided rounds. Sure, a HIMARS launcher might not be as sexy as an F/A-18, but both of them can place a whole lot of boom within a meter of a given target. And the HIMARS will be a lot safer doing it. There are a lot more fighter jets plowed into mountainsides than rocket launchers stuck in the sky, after all.

Though the world of warfare is evolving rapidly, there’s just no replacing good old field artillery. Even though the future shape of the battlefield is as uncertain as ever, one thing remains constant: there will always be a need for cannon and the crews that fire them, and any general who says otherwise is in for a rude awakening.

Articles

Air Force developing hypersonic weapons by 2020s

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
An artist’s rendering of the X-51A | U.S. Air Force graphic


The Air Force will likely have high-speed, long-range and deadly hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, providing kinetic energy destructive power able to travel thousands of miles toward enemy targets at five-times the speed of sound.

“Air speed makes them much more survivable and hard to shoot down. If you can put enough fuel in them that gets them a good long range. You are going roughly a mile a second so if you put in 1,000 seconds of fuel you can go 1,000 miles – so that gives you lots of standoff capability,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While much progress has been made by Air Force and Pentagon scientists thus far, much work needs to be done before hypersonic air vehicles and weapons are technologically ready to be operational in combat circumstances.

“Right now we are focusing on technology maturation so all the bits and pieces, guidance, navigation control, material science, munitions, heat transfer and all that stuff,” Zacharias added.

Zacharias explained that, based upon the current trajectory, the Air Force will likely have some initial hypersonic weapons ready by sometime in the 2020s. A bit further away in the 2030s, the service could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle.

“I don’t yet know if this is envisioned to be survivable or returnable. It may be one way,” Zacharias explained.

A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, he added.

A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.

“They have great kinetic energy to get through hardened targets. You could trade off smaller munitions loads for higher kinetic energy. It is really basically the speed and the range. Mach 5 is five times the speed of sound,” he explained.

The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target.

“If you can get control at a low level and hold onto Mach 5, you can do pretty long ranges,” Zacharias said.

Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
B-52 carries the X-51 Hypersonic Vehicle out to the range for launch test. | US Air Force photo by Bobbi Zapka

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what Zacharias called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of decent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

For instance, Zacharias cited the 1950s-era experimental boost-glide vehicle called the X-15 which aimed to fire 67-miles up into the sky before returning to earth.

China’s Hypersonic Weapons Tests

Zacharias did respond to recent news about China’s claimed test of a hypersonic weapon, a development which caused concern among Pentagon leaders and threat analysts.

While some Pentagon officials have said the Chinese have made progress with effort to develop hypersonic weapons, Zacharias emphasized that much of the details regarding this effort were classified and therefore not publically available.

Nevertheless, should China possess long-range, high-speed hypersonic weapons – it could dramatically impact circumstances known in Pentagon circles and anti-access/area denial.

This phenomenon, referred to at A2/AD, involves instances wherein potential adversaries use long-range sensors and precision weaponry to deny the U.S. any ability to operate in the vicinity of some strategically significant areas such as closer to an enemy coastline. Hypersonic weapons could hold slower-moving Navy aircraft carriers at much greater risk, for example.

An April 27th report in the Washington Free Beach citing Pentagon officials stating that China successfully tested a new high-speed maneuvering warhead just last week.

“The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test,” the report from the Washington Free Beacon said. “The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.”

X-51 Waverider

Scientists with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon’s research arm are working to build a new hypersonic air vehicle that can travel at speeds up to Mach 5 while carrying guidance systems and other materials.

Air Force senior officials have said the service wants to build upon the successful hypersonic flight test of the X-51 Waverider 60,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean in May of 2013.

The Air Force and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research entity, plan to have a new and improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023.

The X-51 was really a proof of concept test designed to demonstrate that a scram jet engine could launch off an aircraft and go hypersonic.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
US Air Force photo

The scramjet was able to go more than Mach 5 until it ran out of fuel. It was a very successful test of an airborne hypersonic weapons system, Air Force officials said.

The successful test was particularly welcome news for Air Force developers because the X-51 Waverider had previously had some failed tests.

The 2013 test flight, which wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapped up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, Air Force officials said.

A B-52H Stratofortress carried the X-51A on its wing before it was released at 50,000 feet and accelerated up to Mach 4.8 in 26 seconds. As the scramjet climbed to 60,000 feet it accelerated to Mach 5.1.

The X-51 was also able to send back data before crashing into the ocean — the kind of information now being used by scientists to engineer a more complete hypersonic vehicle.

“After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed,” according to an Air Force statement. “At impact, 370 seconds of data were collected from the experiment.”

This Air Force the next-generation effort is not merely aimed at creating another scramjet but rather engineering a much more comprehensive hypersonic air vehicle, service scientists have explained.

Hypersonic flight requires technology designed to enable materials that can operate at the very high temperatures created by hypersonic speeds. They need guidance systems able to function as those speeds as well, Air Force officials have said.

The new air vehicle effort will progress alongside an Air Force hypersonic weapons program. While today’s cruise missiles travel at speeds up to 600 miles per hour, hypersonic weapons will be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10, Air Force officials said.

The new air vehicle could be used to transport sensors, equipment or weaponry in the future, depending upon how the technology develops.

Also, Pentagon officials have said that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts.

For example, senior Air Force officials have said that hypersonic flight could speed up a five- hour flight from New York to Los Angeles to about 30 minutes. That being said, the speed of acceleration required for hypersonic flight may preclude or at least challenge the scientific possibility of humans being able to travel at that speed – a question that has yet to be fully determined.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Burke-class destroyers aren’t going to be the Prius of the sea

The United States Navy is shelving plans to turn 33 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers into floating Priuses. One vessel, USS Truxtun (DDG 103), will get the modifications as a test program.


The Navy wanted to use a Hybrid-Electric Drive to increase fuel efficiency by having the ship’s electrical generators turn the propellers as opposed to the drive shaft. The approach would work at speed of up to 13 knots, enabling the ship to carry out anti-submarine warfare, ballistic missile defense missions, or routine operations at night. However, the system had implementation problems, which ultimately led to generators being forced to run at nearly maximum capacity.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
Lt. Cmdr. Frank Kim, fuel officer for Naval Supply Systems Command, Fleet Logistics Center San Diego, compares sample bottles of traditional diesel fuel marine and an algae-derived alternative fuel during the Navy’s largest shipboard alternative fuel test at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. The biofuels proved to be very expensive. (U.S. Navy photo by Candice Villarreal)

“At that point, you are a light switch flipping on away from winking out the whole ship,” an anonymous official told Defense News.

A loss of power could be fatal for a warship in combat — even in peacetime, this presents its own hazards as the collisions involving the guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and John S. McCain (DDG 56) last year proved.

During the Obama Administration, the Navy pushed a “Great Green Fleet” initiative. The program was best known for pushing the use of biodiesel fuels in aircraft and ships. However, the green, alternative fuels proved to be far more expensive, according to reports from the Daily Caller.

In 2012, the DOD was spending as much as $424 per gallon of biofuel. In 2016, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason deployed using a blend of 5.5 percent biodiesel based on palm oil – costing $13.46 per gallon as opposed to the $1.60 per-gallon costs of conventional fuel. The ratio was far below the goal of a 50-50 blend.

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

The German Luftwaffe saw an even more spectacular failure in the fielding of “green” biofuels when they were forced to ground their force of Tornado IDS strike aircraft due to heavily fuel dilution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard addresses missed payday, how to get help

To the men and women of the Coast Guard,

As you are aware, much of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, remains unfunded, and it is not clear when this lapse in appropriations will end. In the coming days, our service will begin to pass critical military and civilian pay-processing milestones necessary to meet regular pay cycles. Unfortunately, without an appropriation, a continuing resolution, or another legislative measure, the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll.

Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation; however, I do not know when that will occur. Moreover, many of you may be aware of proposed congressional legislation that separately provides pay for the Coast Guard. I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.


US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Matthew Masaschi)

I know you have many questions during this difficult time. As the commandant mentioned, please do not hesitate to reach out to your chain of command, the chief’s mess, the ombudsmen network, our chaplains, as well as other resources. In addition, I encourage you to visit the Coast Guard’s website that has the most up-to-date resource links and frequently asked questions at https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/budget/. I encourage you to frequently revisit this website as it will be updated as new information is learned and additional FAQs are developed.

I can announce the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance board just approved an increase to interest-free loans with a focus on the junior workforce. Now, E-5 and below, GS-6 and below, and wage grade equivalents are eligible for a loan up to a maximum of id=”listicle-2625970578″,000 for those with dependents and 0 for those without dependents. Personnel in other paygrades may also qualify if dire circumstances exist. If you require this assistance, please check with your CGMA representative to apply.

Please know that your entire senior leadership team is pursuing every possible avenue to mitigate the effects that this unprecedented event is having on you and your families. In similar fashion, I implore each of you to take an active role in caring for your fellow shipmates and their loved ones. Thank you for your continued dedicated service to our nation.

Semper Paratus,
Adm. Charles W. Ray
Vice Commandant

This article originally appeared on Coast Guard All Hands. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

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