How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot - We Are The Mighty
Tech

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

In August 2008, Norfolk, Virginia, police investigated the scene of a home invasion and rape. A Navy chief petty officer reported that she awoke to an unknown male assaulting her. Before leaving, he threatened to harm her and her teenaged daughter if she reported him. Nearly a month later, the woman and her daughter entered their residence to find the assailant inside. He bound the daughter with duct tape and sexually assaulted her. Although sexual assault evidence collection kits (SAECKs) were obtained from both women, and fingerprints were collected from the crime scene in both instances, there were no leads as to the identity of the attacker and the case soon went cold.


In April 2010, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, a female Army captain was taking a shower when she turned to find an unknown man behind her. He was wearing a tan T-shirt wrapped around his head in order to cover his face. The man attempted to drag her into an empty stall at the far end of the trailer but she fought back. During the ensuing struggle, she sustained numerous cuts from a box cutter and blows to the head, but she was able to deter her attacker. The assailant fled the scene and Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) were immediately alerted. Agents observed a blood trail leading to the male latrine. Blood stained tissue paper and stains in the sink indicated that the attacker had attempted to clean up. Agents also found a tan shirt with bloodstains in a nearby dumpster. Evidence collected from the male and female latrines, blood trail, and dumpster was submitted to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) in Atlanta, Georgia, for analysis.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Blood samples. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran)

Lab examiners processed more than 60 items submitted for DNA, trace evidence and latent print analysis. DNA typing results on the blood evidence found both inside and outside the male latrine determined that it originated from an unknown male. The tan shirt from the dumpster was stained with blood from the same unknown male, and also with blood from the victim, linking it to the crime.

When the DNA profile of the unknown male was submitted to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), it was searched against the national database. CODIS is the generic term used to describe the FBI’s program of support for criminal justice DNA databases as well as the software used to run these databases.

In September 2010, Army CID agents at Camp Arifjan were notified of a database match. The unknown DNA profile had matched another crime scene sample — a DNA profile obtained from semen on a vaginal swab from the 2008 Norfolk case. The case-to-case match did not provide the name of a suspect, but did provide a valuable lead. CID began a joint investigation with Special Agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to try and determine persons of interest who were stationed at both Norfolk and Camp Arifjan during the specified dates and to examine all evidence from the 2008 crime scene that had not been examined by the Norfolk Police Department.

Also read: Why the A-Team’s ‘crime they didn’t commit’ was still a war crime

Service members serving at both installations during the specified time frames numbered in the tens of thousands, and agents looked for ways to narrow the focus of their search. The USACIL coordinated outsourcing of blood evidence recovered from the crime scene for ABO blood-typing. This information was used to limit the number of service members to approximately 1,800 males who were blood-type A. Blood samples of service members stored in the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory Registry are collected for the sole purpose of identifying the remains of service members, and legally cannot be searched for criminal investigations except in the rarest of circumstances. Because of this, there was no easy way for the DNA profiles from persons of interest to be searched. CID and NCIS agents were presented with the difficult challenge of collecting DNA reference samples from those 1,800 persons of interest, most of whom had relocated to other duty stations all around the world, and submitting them to USACIL for analysis.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

By December 2013, with no new leads, the case went cold again. More than 200 DNA references had been processed at the USACIL with no matches to report when there was a long-awaited break in the case. Latent prints collected by Norfolk PD were forwarded to the FBI to search against military service records. The FBI notified NCIS of a potential “hit” on a Navy reservist named Amin J. Garcia. NCIS agents considered Garcia a person of interest, but wanted to confirm that he matched the unknown DNA profile before an arrest was made.

Garcia was serving at the Navy Operational Support Center in the Bronx, New York when NCIS contacted the USACIL’s DNA casework branch for advice on what types of covert DNA samples to collect. NCIS Agents shadowed the suspect while eating lunch in the cafeteria, and submitted a fork, drinking glass, and swabs from a partially eaten banana for DNA comparison. In December 2013, USACIL reported that the DNA from the fork matched the DNA profile from the blood collected from the crime scene at Camp Arifjan. Early in 2014, PO2 Amin J. Garcia was arrested. His DNA profile was entered into CODIS and matched him to both the Camp Arifjan sample and the Norfolk SAECK sample, linking him to the rape in 2008 and the aggravated assault in 2010.

More: Why lying about military service is a crime rarely prosecuted

Army CID Special Agent Charles Rector was the special agent-in-charge of the Kuwait CID Office at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, when the second attack took place. Now retired from the military, Rector is a regional special agent-in-charge for the Investigation Division, Office of Security and Integrity, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Even though it’s been more than seven years, he definitely remembers the case.

“It was about a week or so prior to redeploying in 2010, and even though we had worked several sexual assaults during the year-long rotation – this one was an exceptionally brutal attack in a populated area of Zone 6 … very unusual for an incident to happen in the early evening hours in a busy area,” said Rector.

“Initially, I supervised the processing of the crime scene, a large female shower trailer, and the surrounding area. Additionally, we launched many efforts to locate the suspect. Many MP patrols and the local MPI section were used and nearly the entire night was spent working the primary scene and a secondary scene where it appeared the subject had cleaned himself.”

Rector said he and his team faced many challenges during the investigation.

“Zone 6 was largely a transient area of the installation and additionally there had been a concert approximately 150 yards away from the incident location which had concluded about an hour earlier,” said Rector. “As a result, many military and contractors from several of the other smaller camps within Kuwait had attended.”

“At some point after my team redeployed and the initial lab work was completed, a ‘hit’ on the DNA recovered from evidence recovered in Kuwait matched an “unknown” sexual assault in Norfolk from several years prior — involving a female Navy member and her daughter. I attempted to keep aware of the case from the U.S. from several different locations over the next couple years.”

“I am thrilled and overwhelmed, especially for the victim,” said Rector. He said this investigation is a “very good testament to the CID work performed and that the hours “devoted to this assault is a testament to the CID motto of “Doing What Has to be Done.”

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Dr. Evelyn Ridgley is a forensic biologist at the USACIL’s DNA Branch and was the DNA examiner assigned to the case. She examined the evidence submitted from the crime scene for the presence of blood or possible touch DNA, which could be used to identify a person of interest. She said that she was always hopeful the case would be solved and was surprised that an older ABO blood type test was what broke open the case.

“It’s an older test that has been replaced by modern DNA testing,” said Ridgley. “In this case, it was a test that was used to eliminate potential suspects based upon the blood type listed in their service records. There was a lot of blood at the scene, so we were able to obtain the unknown suspect’s blood type as well as his DNA profile. We don’t perform that test because it is so rarely used these days, but we outsourced the sample to a private lab.”

Ridgley said there were many challenges to the case.

“One challenge was that I was examining evidence from three different crime scenes,” said Ridgley. “Two scenes were from Camp Arifjan — the shower where the female captain was attacked, and the male latrine where the suspect cleaned up; that evidence was received from Army CID. Later, NCIS sent me evidence from the Norfolk crime scene where the teen-aged daughter was assaulted, that hadn’t been examined during the initial investigation. The agents were exhausting all possible leads trying to identify the assailant. Another challenge was examining more than 200 DNA references that were sent to the lab and checking them against the DNA evidence from the crime scenes. I ended up issuing more than 14 DNA reports for this case.”

More: Falsely accused Marine commandos were just exonerated

To overcome those challenges Ridgley said she maintained open communication with the case agents.

“They would give me a call and discuss any new evidence they were planning on submitting, and I would let them know what tests could be done and if it might yield any useful information to the investigation,” she said. “They would also give me a heads up when they were going to submit a new batch of DNA references. We decided that it was more efficient to process them in batches of at least 20 or so, rather than submit them one at a time.”

Ridgley added that for agents in the field, “when in doubt, call the lab and we will be happy to answer any questions about how to collect a sample.”

In August 2014, Garcia was convicted in Norfolk Circuit Court of rape and abduction for the 2008 crimes. He was later sentenced to life. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced in February 2016 to 20 years for the attack at Camp Arifjan. After a lengthy investigation involving multiple agencies, two different forensic labs, and multiple forensic exams, justice was finally served.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is NASA’s plan for a US Moon Base

As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.

For months, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s.


The platform will consist of at least a power and propulsion element and habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. While specific technical and mission capabilities as well as partnership opportunities are under consideration, NASA plans to launch elements of the gateway on the agency’s Space Launch System or commercial rockets for assembly in space.

“The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars.”

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
The next generation of NASA’s Space Launch System will be 364 feet tall in the crew configuration, will deliver a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity and feature a powerful exploration upper stage.
(Artist concept)

The power and propulsion element will be the initial component of the gateway, and is targeted to launch in 2022. Using advanced high-power solar electric propulsion, the element will maintain the gateway’s position and can move the gateway between lunar orbits over its lifetime to maximize science and exploration operations. As part of the agency’s public-private partnership work under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, five companies are completing four-month studies on affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element. NASA will leverage capabilities and plans of commercial satellite companies to build the next generation of all electric spacecraft.

The power and propulsion element will also provide high-rate and reliable communications for the gateway including space-to-Earth and space-to-lunar uplinks and downlinks, spacecraft-to-spacecraft crosslinks, and support for spacewalk communications. Finally, it also can accommodate an optical communications demonstration – using lasers to transfer large data packages at faster rates than traditional radio frequency systems.

Habitation capabilities launching in 2023 will further enhance our abilities for science, exploration, and partner (commercial and international) use. The gateway’s habitation capabilities will be informed by NextSTEP partnerships, and also by studies with the International Space Station partners. With this capability, crew aboard the gateway could live and work in deep space for up to 30 to 60 days at a time.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
A full moon witnessed fromu00a0orbit.
(NASA)

Crew will also participate in a variety of deep space exploration and commercial activities in the vicinity of the Moon, including possible missions to the lunar surface. NASA also wants to leverage the gateway for scientific investigations near and on the Moon. The agency recently completed a call for abstracts from the global science community, and is hosting a workshop in late February 2018, to discuss the unique scientific research the gateway could enable. NASA anticipates the gateway will also support the technology maturation and development of operating concepts needed for missions beyond the Earth and Moon system.

Adding an airlock to the gateway in the future will enable crew to conduct spacewalks, enable science activities and accommodate docking of future elements. NASA is also planning to launch at least one logistics module to the gateway, which will enable cargo resupply deliveries, additional scientific research and technology demonstrations and commercial use.

Following the commercial model the agency pioneered in low-Earth orbit for space station resupply, NASA plans to resupply the gateway through commercial cargo missions. Visiting cargo spacecraft could remotely dock to the gateway between crewed missions.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
During Exploration Mission-1, Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the moon during an approximately three week mission.
(Artist concept)

Drawing on the interests and capabilities of industry and international partners, NASA will develop progressively complex robotic missions to the surface of the Moon with scientific and exploration objectives in advance of a human return. NASA’s exploration missions and partnerships will also support the missions that will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are the backbone of the agency’s future in deep space. Momentum continues toward the first integrated launch of the system around the Moon in fiscal year 2020 and a mission with crew by 2023. The agency is also looking at a number of possible public/private partnerships in areas including in-space manufacturing and technologies to extract and process resources from the Moon and Mars, known as in-situ resource utilization.

May 2, 2018 – Update

As reflected in NASA’s Exploration Campaign, the next step in human spaceflight is the establishment of U.S. preeminence in cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a U.S.-led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, the gateway is central to advancing and sustaining human space exploration goals, and is the unifying single stepping off point in our architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars. The gateway is necessary to achieving the ambitious exploration campaign goals set forth by Space Policy Directive 1. Through partnerships both domestic and international, NASA will bring innovation and new approaches to the advancement of these U.S. human spaceflight goals.

NASA published a memorandum outlining the agency’s plans to collaboratively build the gateway. Learn more:

Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway Partnerships Memo

For more information about NASA’s deep space exploration plans, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/journeytomars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Tech

Here’s what it’s like inside a giant C-17 cargo plane at JB Charleston

Joint Base Charleston serves two factions of the US military: the Air Force and the Navy. Before 2010, the Charleston Air Force Base and the Navy Naval Support Activity Charleston had separate facilities. This Joint Base is the result of their merging. However, jurisdiction for the base lies with the Air Force. Located near Charleston, South Carolina, Joint Base Charleston also shares runways with Charleston International Airport. 

All Hail the 437th Airlift Wing

The 437th Airlift Wing controls the premier active-duty flying wing at the base, flying and maintaining a large fleet of C-17 aircraft, one of the largest in the entire Air Force. That gives Joint Base Charleston a pretty important role, as the fleet provides a significant chunk of Air Mobility Command’s Global Reach airlift capability. They are tasked with providing safe, reliable, and precise airlift to anywhere in the world. 

C-17s Are Out There Making the World Better

Their C-17 fleet contains roughly 41 aircraft. The fleet’s value rings in at about $9.2 billion. Each aircraft is with $212 million alone. Every three minutes day or night, one of the aircraft from the 437th Airlift Wing is either taking off or landing somewhere around the globe. These aircraft typically carry humanitarian supplies, war supplies, troops, or medical personnel. If there is trouble or conflict, Charleston’s planes are often the ones called upon to go and help out in some way. 

An Aircraft to Write Home About 

The C-17 fleet is so capable that it can carry many types of bulk cargo. It can fit two big buses, one large Army tank, or three helicopters, for reference. That means these aircraft are simply enormous, so big it’s hard to truly imagine without seeing it with your own eyes. The tail of one of these planes is more than 55 feet tall, the cockpit is around 20 feet tall, and its wingspan reaches nearly 170 feet. 

At full capacity, a C-17 can hold about 600,000 pounds on the ground with a maximum load of 170,900 pounds. It can land in precarious spots as well, on runways as short as 3,000 feet, even with a full load. Now that is one impressive machine. Operating these the 437th Airlift Wing is a workforce of 1,300 personnel, some military and some civilian. They all support the Department of Defense tactical airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, and worldwide airlift. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army plans to counter massive drone attacks

The U.S. Army is accelerating a number of emerging counter-drone weapons in response to a warzone request from U.S. Central Command — to counter a massive uptick in enemy small-drone attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“Theater has asked for a solution, so we are looking at what we can apply as an interim solution,” Col. John Lanier Ward, Director Army Rapid Equipping Force, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

New electronic warfare weapons, next-generation sensors and interceptors, and cutting edge improved targeting technology for the .50-Cal machine gun to better enable it to target enemy drones with more precision and effectiveness — are all key approaches now being pursued.

Ward said the Army is fast-tracking improved “slue-to-cue” technology, new sensors, and emerging radar-based targeting technology to give the .50-Cal more precision accuracy.

“Targeting is getting better for the .50-Cal…everything from being able to detect, identify and engage precise targets such as enemy drones,” Ward added.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Cpl. Christopher Neumann aims his GAU-21 .50 caliber machine gun during a close air support exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 19, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Natalie A. Dillon)

In service for decades, the .50-Cal has naturally been thought of as largely an area weapon able to lay down suppressive fire, enabling troops to manuever and blanketing enemy targets with rounds. The weapon, of course, still has this function, which could seek to eliminate attacking drones. At the same time, technical efforts are underway to make .50-Cal targeting more precise, such that it could shoot down swarms of quadcopters or other commercially avail mini-drones configured for attack.

Precision-guided weaponry, such as JDAMs from the air, have been operational for decades. GPS-guided land weapons, such as Excalibur 155m artillery rounds or the larger GMLRS, Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems, have been in combat since 2007 and 2008; engineering comparable guidance for smaller rounds, naturally, is a much more challenging task.

Non-Kinetic EW approaches have already been used effectively to jam signals of ISIS drones by the Army and Air Force; Ward explained that these tactics would be supplemented by emerging kinetic options as well.

Various technical efforts to engineer precision guidance for the .50-Cal have been in development for several years. In 2015, a DARPA program called Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) demonstrated self-steering bullets to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots. DARPA’s website, which includes a video of a live-fire demonstration of the technology, states that EXACTO rounds maneuver in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. “EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits,” DARPA.mil states. Laser range-finding technology is a key element of EXACTO in order to accommodate for fast-changing factors such as wind and target movement; since the speed of light is a known entity, and the time of travel of a round can also be determined, a computer algorithm can then determine the exact distance of a target and guide rounds precisely to a target.

 

(DARPAtv | YouTube)Elements of the fast-tracked counter-drone effort, with respect to forward base protection, involves collaboration between the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the service’s program of record Forward Operating Base protective weapon — Counter-Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM).

Also, according to an article in Jane’s Defence, Orbital ATK is developing a range of new advanced medium-calibre ammunition variants drawing upon EXACTO-like technology for use with its 30/40 mm calibre MK44 XM813 and 30 mm calibre lightweight XM914 Bushmaster Chain Guns.

From Janes Defence: “The EXACTO effort has resulted in a guided .50 calibre round – equipped with real-time optical sensors and aero-actuation controls – that improves sniping performance in long-range, day/night engagements. The EXACTO system combines a manoeuvrable bullet with a complementary laser designator-equipped fire-control system (FCS) to compensate for weather, wind, target movement, and other factors that can reduce accuracy.”

C-RAM FOB Protection

C-RAM is deployed at numerous Forward Operating Bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan and the system has been credited with saving thousands of soldiers’ lives and is now being analyzed for upgrades and improvements.

C-RAM uses sensors, radar and fire-control technology alongside a vehicle or ground-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire. As an area weapon, the Phalanx then fires thousands of projectiles in rapid succession to knock the threat out of the sky.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Bravo Battery, 2nd Bn, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, boresights a Counter Rocket, Artillery ,and Mortar (C-RAM) weapon as part of their normally scheduled system check at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Ben Santos, US Force Afghanistan public affairs)

Engineers with Northrop Grumman integrate the Raytheon-built Phalanx into the C-RAM system; C-RAM was first developed and deployed to defend Navy ships at sea, however a fast-emerging need to protect soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired the Army to quickly adapt the technology for use on land; C-RAM has been operational on the ground since 2005.

Northrop developers are assessing new optical sensors, passive sensors and lasers to widen the target envelope for the system such that it can destroy enemy drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles. Engineers are also looking at new interceptor missiles to compliment the Phalanx, Northrop developers said.

The basis for integrating emerging technologies is grounded in a technical effort to construct the system with “open architecture” and workable interfaces able to accommodate new sensors and weapons. This hinges on the use of common IP protocol standards engineered to facilitate interoperability between emerging technologies and existing systems.

“Regardless of what is used to defeat the threat, we are looking at changing the sensors as technology evolves. You can also integrate new weapons as technology changes. In the future, we plan to have weapons talk to the interceptor,” said Sean Walsh, C-RAM project management, Northrop.

Also Read: Here is how Burke-class destroyers will be able to zap incoming missiles

The rationale for these potential upgrades and improvements is grounded in the recognition of a fast-changing global threat environment. Drone technology and drone-fired weapons, for instance, are proliferating around the globe at a rapid pace – therefore increasing the likelihood that potential adversaries will be able to surveil and attack forward operating bases with a wider range of air and ground weapons, including drones. Army base protections will need to identify a larger range of enemy attack weapons at further distances, requiring a broader base of defensive sensors and weaponry.

Adding new sensors and weapons to CRAM could bring nearer term improvements by upgrading an existing system currently deployed, therefore circumventing multi-year developmental efforts necessary for many acquisition programs.

“There is some work being done to add missiles to the system through an enterprise approach,” Walsh said.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
U.S. Army Specialist James Finn, B Battery, 2nd Bn 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, loads rounds into a Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar system at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by  Ben Santos, U.S. Forces Afghanistan public affairs)

Lasers Missile Interceptors

Northrop’s plan to develop ground-fired laser technology is consistent with the Army’s current strategy to deploy laser weapons to protect Forward Operating Bases by the early 2020s.

Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.

Other interceptor weapons are now being developed for an emerging Army ground-based protective technology called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023, senior service leaders say.

Army weapons testers have already fired larger interceptors and destroyed drones with Hellfire missiles, AIM-9X Sidewinder weapons and an emerging kinetic energy interceptor called Miniature-Hit-to-Kill missile. The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and the AGM-114 Hellfire missile are typically fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily and air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.

Made by Lockheed Martin, the Miniature Hit-to-Kill interceptor is less than 2.5 feet in length and weighs about 5 pounds at launch. It is designed to be small in size while retaining the range and lethality desired in a counter-RAM solution. As a kinetic energy interceptor destroying targets through a high-speed collision without explosives, the weapon is able to greatly reduce collateral damage often caused by the blast-fragmentation from explosions.

Integrated Battle Command System

The Army has been testing many of these weapons using a Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML — a truck-mounted weapon used as part of Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2; the system uses a Northrop-developed command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.

IBCS uses a netted-group of integrated sensors and networking technologies to connect radar systems — such as the Sentinel — with fire-control for large interceptors such as Patriot Advanced Capability – 3 and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.”If I lay down my sensors, I can see any kind of attack coming from those origins to take kill vectors as far forward as possible. If an enemy has a cruise missile, I want to kill them over the top of the enemy,” said Kenneth Todorov, Director, Global Air and Missile Defense, Northrop Grumman.

With IBCS, sensors can be strategically placed around a given threat area or battlespace to optimize their detection capacity; IBCS is evolving more toward what Pentagon strategists called “multi-domain” warfare, meaning sensors from different services can interoperate with one another and pass along target information.

While some of the networking mechanisms are still being refined and developed, the idea is to enable ship-based Aegis radar to work in tandem with Air Force fighter jets and ground-based Army missile systems.

Synergy between nodes, using radio, LINK 16 data networks and GPS can greatly expedite multi-service coordination by passing along fast-developing threat information. IBCS, an Army program of record, uses computer-generated digital mapping to present an integrated combat picture showing threat trajectories, sensors, weapons and intercepts, Todorov explained.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launches a Standard Missile 6 during a live-fire test of the ship’s Aegis weapons system. (Photo from U.S. Navy)

C-RAM Radar

C-RAM utilizes several kinds of radar, including an upgraded AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder Radar which, operating at a 90-degree angle, emits electromagnetic pings into surrounding areas as far as 50-kilometers away. The radar technology then analyzes the return signal to determine the shape, size and speed of an attacking enemy round on its upward trajectory before it reaches it full height.

The AN/TPQ-37, engineered by ThalesRaytheon, has been completely redesigned, incorporating 12 modern air-cooled power amplifier modules, a high-power RF combiner and fully automated transmitter control unit, according to ThalesRaytheon information.

“Radar Processor Upgrade The new radar processor combines the latest VME-64x architecture and full high/low temperature performance with AN/TPQ-37 Operational and Maintenance software programs. Containing only three circuit cards, maintenance and provisioning are simplified while overall reliability and power consumption is improved,” ThalesRaytheon data explains.

Army “Red-Teams” Forward Operating Bases

Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Forward Operating Bases.

The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, senior Army leaders said.

The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.

“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.

Also Read: Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or deployed.

Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies.

They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Army leaders explained.

Results from these exercises figure prominently in planning for weapons upgrades and modernization efforts such as the current C-RAM effort; technologies added to a weapons system can be tailored to address a specific vulnerability which could emerge as enemy weapons become more advanced.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
U.S. Army Spc. Joshua Provo, sends up coordinates to his higher command, Nov. 18, 2013, during a dismounted patrol from Forward Operating Base Torkham. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO)

Major Power War New Army Doctrine

Upgrades to C-RAM, along with development of emerging launchers and interceptors, are fundamental to a broader Army strategic equation aimed at engineering weapons and technologies able to succeed in major-power, force-on-force mechanized warfare against a near peer.

Forward bases will no longer need to defend only against insurgent-type mortar attacks but may likely operate in a much higher-threat environment involving long-range, precision-guided ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drone-fired weapons, among other things.

New sensors, laser weapons and more capable interceptors, such as those being explored by Northrop, are being evaluated for both near term and long-term threats.

The Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in what many Pentagon planners call contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyberattacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping.

The Army recently unveiled a new combat “operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China – able to substantially challenge U.S. military technological superiority.

It is intended as a supplement or adjustment to the Army’s current Field Manual, Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Also Read: 6 ways the U.S. could beef up its short-range air defense

“This field manual for operations, which looks at where we are and where we are going. You cannot view the current force as the only answer. Things are evolving and you do not want to wait for some perfect end state,” Smith said.

When it comes to land combat, the renewed doctrine will accommodate the current recognition that the U.S. Army is no longer the only force to possess land-based, long-range precision weaponry. While JDAMs and GPS-guided weapons fired from the air have existed since the Gulf War timeframe, land-based precision munitions such as the 155m GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to hit 30 kilometers emerged within the last 10 years. This weapon first entered service in 2007, however precision-guided land artillery is now something many potential adversaries now possess as well.

While the emerging “operations” doctrine adaptation does recognize that insurgent and terrorist threats from groups of state and non-state actors will likely persist for decades into the future, the new manual will focus intently upon preparedness for a fast-developing high-tech combat environment against a major adversary.

Advanced adversaries with aircraft carriers, stealth aircraft, emerging hypersonic weapons, drones, long-range sensors and precision targeting technology presents the U.S. military with a need to adjust doctrine to properly respond to a fast-changing threat landscape.

For instance, Russia and China both claim to be developing stealth 5th generation fighters, electronic warfare and more evolved air defenses able to target aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at much farther distances. Long-range, precision guided anti-ship missiles able to target U.S. carriers at ranges up to 900 miles present threat scenarios making it much harder for U.S. platforms to operate in certain areas and sufficiently project power.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Deck mounted excalibur N5 (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Joshua Adam Nuzzo, U.S. Navy)

In addition, the Army’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) is a GPS-guided rocket able to destroy enemies at ranges up to 70 kilometers; the kind of long-range land-fired precision evidenced by GMLRS is yet another instance of U.S. weapons technology emerging in recent years that is now rivaled by similar weapons made my large nation-state potential adversaries. GMLRS warheads are now being upgraded to replace cluster munitions with a unitary warhead to adhere to an international anti-cluster munitions treaty.

Drones, such as the Army’s Shadow or Gray Eagle aircraft, are the kind of ISR platforms now similar to many technologies currently on the global marketplace.

All of these advancing and increasingly accessible weapons, quite naturally, foster a need for the U.S. to renew its doctrine such that it can effectively respond to a need for new tactics, concepts, strategies and combat approaches designed for a new operational environment.

The new manual will also fully incorporate a fast-evolving Pentagon strategy referred to as “multi-domain” warfare; this is based upon the recognition that enemy tactics and emerging technologies increasingly engender a greater need for inter-service, multi-domain operations.

popular

5 new technologies NASA created to study the history of the universe

Our
James Webb Space Telescope is the most ambitious and complex space science observatory ever built. It will study every phase in the history of our universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

In order to carry out such a daring mission, many innovative and powerful new technologies were developed specifically to enable Webb to achieve its primary mission.

Here are 5 technologies that were developed to help Webb push the boundaries of space exploration and discovery:


1. Microshutters

image

Microshutters are basically tiny windows with shutters that each measure 100 by 200 microns, or about the size of a bundle of only a few human hairs.

The microshutter device will record the spectra of light from distant objects (spectroscopy is simply the science of measuring the intensity of light at different wavelengths. The graphical representations of these measurements are called spectra.)

image

Other spectroscopic instruments have flown in space before but none have had the capability to enable high-resolution observation of up to 100 objects simultaneously, which means much more scientific investigating can get done in less time.

Read more about how the microshutters work
HERE.

2. The Backplane

image

Webb’s backplane is the large structure that holds and supports the big hexagonal mirrors of the telescope, you can think of it as the telescope’s “spine”. The backplane has an important job as it must carry not only the 6.5 m (over 21 foot) diameter primary mirror plus other telescope optics, but also the entire module of scientific instruments. It also needs to be essentially motionless while the mirrors move to see far into deep space. All told, the backplane carries more than 2400kg (2.5 tons) of hardware.

image

This structure is also designed to provide unprecedented thermal stability performance at temperatures colder than -400°F (-240°C). At these temperatures, the backplane was engineered to be steady down to 32 nanometers, which is 1/10,000 the diameter of a human hair!

Read more about the backplane
HERE.

3. The Mirrors

image

One of the Webb Space Telescope’s science goals is to look back through time to when galaxies were first forming. Webb will do this by observing galaxies that are very distant, at over 13 billion light years away from us. To see such far-off and faint objects, Webb needs a large mirror.

Webb’s scientists and engineers determined that a primary mirror 6.5 meters across is what was needed to measure the light from these distant galaxies. Building a mirror this large is challenging, even for use on the ground. Plus, a mirror this large has never been launched into space before!

image

If the Hubble Space Telescope’s 2.4-meter mirror were scaled to be large enough for Webb, it would be too heavy to launch into orbit. The Webb team had to find new ways to build the mirror so that it would be light enough – only 1/10 of the mass of Hubble’s mirror per unit area – yet very strong.

Read more about how we designed and created Webb’s unique mirrors
HERE.

4. Wavefront Sensing and Control

image

Wavefront sensing and control is a technical term used to describe the subsystem that was required to sense and correct any errors in the telescope’s optics. This is especially necessary because all 18 segments have to work together as a single giant mirror.

The work performed on the telescope optics resulted in a NASA tech spinoff for diagnosing eye conditions and accurate mapping of the eye. This spinoff supports research in cataracts, keratoconus (an eye condition that causes reduced vision), and eye movement – and improvements in the LASIK procedure.

Read more about the tech spinoff
HERE.

5. Sunshield and Sunshield Coating

image

Webb’s primary science comes from infrared light, which is essentially heat energy. To detect the extremely faint heat signals of astronomical objects that are incredibly far away, the telescope itself has to be very cold and stable. This means we not only have to protect Webb from external sources of light and heat (like the Sun and the Earth), but we also have to make all the telescope elements very cold so they don’t emit their own heat energy that could swamp the sensitive instruments. The temperature also must be kept constant so that materials aren’t shrinking and expanding, which would throw off the precise alignment of the optics.

image

Each of the five layers of the sunshield is incredibly thin. Despite the thin layers, they will keep the cold side of the telescope at around -400°F (-240°C), while the Sun-facing side will be 185°F (85°C). This means you could actually freeze nitrogen on the cold side (not just liquify it), and almost boil water on the hot side. The sunshield gives the telescope the equivalent protection of a sunscreen with SPF 1 million!

Read more about Webb’s incredible sunshield
HERE.

Learn more about the Webb Space Telescope and other complex technologies that have been created for the first time by visiting
THIS page.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the US Navy’s high-tech submarine hunter

The US Navy announced in May 2018, that it was restarting the 2nd Fleet to oversee the western Atlantic Ocean, including the North Atlantic and the US East Coast.

The decision comes after several years of tensions between NATO members and Russia — and several warnings from Western officials about growing Russian naval activity, including more sophisticated and more active submarines.


NATO has responded in kind, with a special focus on antisubmarine warfare — a capability that has waned among Western navies since the end of the Cold War.

For NATO members and other countries, augmenting antisubmarine abilities means not only adding ships but also advanced maritime-patrol aircraft to scour the sea. A number of aircraft on the market fill this role, but the US-made P-8A Poseidon is among the most sophisticated.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
A P-8A Poseidon

“What it can do from the air, and tracking submarines, is almost like Steven Spielberg,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early May 2018.

“I went up on a training flight,” he said, “and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above.”

“It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”

‘The best ASW … platform in the fleet’

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Boeing and Raytheon employees complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2, November 2009.
(Boeing photo)

In 2004, the US Navy picked the P-8A Poseidon to succeed the P-3 Orion, which had been in operation since the 1960s. The first Poseidon entered service in 2013, and more than 60 are in service now.

The jet-powered P-8A is based on Boeing‘s 737 airliner, but it is specialized to withstand more strain, with aluminum skin that is 50% thicker than a commercial 737. Every surface is equipped for deicing.

A commercial 737 can be built in two weeks, but a P-8A takes roughly two months.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.
(U.S. Navy photo)

It has a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and, unlike the P-3, is designed to do most of its work at high altitude, where it has better fuel efficiency and its sensors are more effective. The Poseidon’s top speed of 564 mph is also 200 mph faster than the older Orion, allowing it to get to its station faster and reposition more quickly.

Among its sensors is the APY-10 radar, which can detect and identify ships on the surface and even pick up submarine periscopes. It can also provide long-distance imagery of ports or cities and perform surveillance along coasts or on land.

An electro-optical/infrared turret on the bottom of the plane offers a shorter-range search option and can carry up to seven sensors, including an image intensifier, a laser rangefinder, and infrared, which can detect heat from subs or from fires.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Naval Aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon to prepare it for use, April 10, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

The Poseidon’s ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure acts as an electromagnetic sensor and can track radar emitters. Its Advanced Airborne Sensor can do 360-degree scans on land and water. Other electronic surveillance measures allow it to passively monitor a wide area without detection.

The original P-8A design did not include the Magnetic Anomaly Detector that the P-3 carried to detect the metal in sub’s hulls. The MAD’s exclusion was controversial, but the P-8A can deploy sonar buoys to track subs, and recent upgrades allow it to use new buoys that last longer and have a broader search range.

It also carries an acoustic sensor and a hydrocarbon sensor designed to pick up fuel vapor from subs. The P-8A’s cabin can have up to seven operator consoles, and onboard computers compile data for those operators and then distribute it to friendly forces.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Crew members load an AGM-84K SLAM-ER missile on a P-8A Poseidon, April 4, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Kofonow)

The P-8A carries its own armaments, including Harpoon antiship missiles, depth charges, MK-54 torpedoes, and naval mines. It can also deploy defensive countermeasures, including a laser and metallic chaff to confuse incoming missiles.

A dry-bay fire system uses sensors to detect fires on board and extinguish them, a P-8A pilot told The War Zone in early 2017.

“The P-8 is the best ASW localize/track platform in the fleet, one of the best maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] assets in the world, with the ability to identify and track hundreds of contacts, and complete the kill chain for both surface and subsurface contacts if necessary,” the pilot said.

‘The next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft’

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
US Navy aircrew members look out the windows of a P-8A Poseidon while flying over the Indian Ocean in support of efforts to locate Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, April 8, 2014.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)

Russia’s submarine fleet is a fraction of its Cold War size, but its subs are more sophisticated and have been deployed as US and NATO attention has shifted away from antisubmarine efforts.

“We have found in the last two years we are very short of high-end antisubmarine-warfare hunters,” Royal Navy Vice Adm. Clive CC Johnstone, commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, said in January 2018.

Along with interest in buying subs, “you see an increased focus on other types of antisubmarine, submarine-hunter platforms, so frigates and maritime-patrol aircraft and stuff like that,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider earlier this year.

In 2016, the UK announced it would buy nine P-8As. In 2017, Norway announced it was buying five.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
The Russian Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Severodvinsk.

Those purchases are part of efforts by the US, UK, and Norway to reinvigorate the Cold War maritime-surveillance network covering the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK, known as the GIUK gap, through which Russian subs are traveling more frequently between their Northern Fleet base and the Atlantic.

In June 2017, defense ministers from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey agreed to cooperate on “multinational maritime multimission aircraft capabilities.” The US Navy has increased its antisubmarine activities in Europe, leading with the P-8A.

The US’s 2018 defense budget included $14 million to refurbish hangers at Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland, where antisubmarine forces hunted German U-boats during World War II and patrols scoured northern latitudes during the Cold War.

The US Navy decided to leave Keflavik in 2006, but recent modifications would allow P-8As to be stationed there, though the Navy has said it doesn’t currently plan to reestablish a permanent presence.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
A P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Keflavik, Iceland, for antisubmarine-warfare training, April 28, 2017.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)

Poseidons operate over the Black Sea to track the growing number of Russian subs there. P-8As based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy have reportedly helped hunt Russian subs lurking near NATO warships and taken part in antisubmarine-warfare exercises around the Mediterranean.

These operations around Europe have also put Poseidons in closesometimes dangerous— proximity to Russian aircraft.

“The Poseidon is becoming the next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft,” Nordenman said. “Not only for the US, but increasingly for our allies in Europe, too.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more US rotations to Keflavik and deeper cooperation between the US, the UK, and Norway on maritime-patrol-aircraft operations in the Atlantic,” he added. “I would say this is just a first step.”

‘There is a requirement need out here’

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Malaysian Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin watches crew members demonstrate advanced features of a P-8A Poseidon, April 21, 2016.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)

Like Russia, China has been investing in submarines, and its neighbors have growing interest in submarines and antisubmarine-warfare assets — including the P-8A.

India made its first purchase of the P-8I Neptune variant in 2009, buying eight that deployed in 2013. New Delhi bought four additional planes in 2016, and India’s navy chief said in January that the service was looking to buy more.

In early 2014, Australia agreed to buy eight P-8As for $3.6 billion. They are expected to arrive by 2021, and Canberra has the option to buy four more.

India and Australia are the only buyers in Asia so far, but others, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, are interested. South Korea said in February 2018, it would buy maritime-patrol aircraft from a foreign buyer — Boeing and Saab are reportedly competing for a contract worth $1.75 billion.

“There is a requirement need out here in the Asian region for P-8s,” Matt Carreon, Boeing’s head of sales for the P-8A, said in February 2018, pointing to the high volume of shipping, threat of piracy, and the “current political climate” as reasons for interest.

But overall sales have been underwhelming, likely in part because the Poseidon and its variants are relatively expensive, and their specialized features require a lengthy procurement process.

US Navy P-8As have also been more active around Asia, where their crews work with non-US military personnel, take part in search-and-rescue operations, and perform maritime surveillance over disputed areas, like the South China Sea, where they have monitored Chinese activity.

As in Europe, this can lead to dicey situations.

In August 2014, a P-8A operating 130 miles east of China’s Hainan Island had a close encounter with a Chinese J-11 fighter jet, which brought one of its wings within 20 feet of the P-8A and did a barrel roll over the patrol plane’s nose.

The jet also flew by the P-8A with its belly visible, “to make a point of showing its weapons,” the Pentagon said.

While naval competition is heating up in the waters around Europe, some believe the Asia-Pacific region — home to five of the world’s 10 most powerful militaries — will drive demand for assets like the Poseidon.

“I think the maritime mission is going to be as big as the land mission in the future, driven by Asian customers like Australia, India, Japan, Korea, and … other countries will certainly play a role,” Joseph Song, vice president for international strategic development at General Atomics Aeronautical, told Reuters.

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

popular

Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

It happens all the time. You open your Facebook and find a new friend request; zero mutual friends, no information, but a smoking hot profile picture.


Don’t flatter yourself. According to an Oxford University study, it’s more than likely not a “her” but is instead a bot account created to get fake pro-Putin news into your  feed.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

The Computational Propaganda Project, the team behind the study, says the political actors use bots to manipulate conversations, demobilize opposition, and generate false support on popular social media sites.

While the bots target both politically left and right leaning users, the study finds that it’s higher and more successful among Twitter users than Facebook. The bot would follow trending hashtags within the veteran community, such as #GoArmy and #Iraq, to find their target.

The account would have a generic name and a profile picture of an attractive person to lure users in. Once they’ve accepted or followed back, then it’s on.

John D. Gallacher, Oxford Professor of Cognitive Health, explains in his study that they analyzed data from subgroups of Twitter and Facebook users to target U.S. military personnel and veterans with junk news about military affairs, misinformation, and conspiracy theories.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Besides, Russian Operatives can’t be that attractive… Oh… Damn it. (Image via Donna Moderna)

To explain how this all would play out Barney-style: Something happens and it’s in the Kremlin’s best interest that Americans think of it a certain way. A programmer would create thousands of fake accounts that search for U.S. troops and veterans.

If they are successful in luring the troop or veteran in, they are barraged with a mix of fake news and legitimate content until the seed of doubt blooms.

Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner told CNN that the epidemic of fake social media accounts is far larger than it appears. He told CNN the the 470 accounts Facebook identified as pro-Kremlin bots “doesn’t pass the smell test.” He further explained that prior to the recent French presidential election, Facebook took down over 30,000 bot accounts.

It should be noted however, that Russian journalists and activists are reportedly trying to take down the “troll farms” that spread misinformation across Europe and the United States.

popular

6 reasons why most sci-fi weapons would be terrible

Regardless of medium, whenever there’s a futuristic, science-fiction war going on, there are lasers. Laser guns, laser swords, laser cannons — laser everything. Now, this isn’t to say that lasers are an impossibility in the real world. In fact, the U.S. military has kept an eye on developing high-powered, laser-based weaponry since the 1960s. Even today, the U.S. military is using lasers to heat up objects, like missiles, to take them down with speed, accuracy, and ease.


But here’s why the sci-fi staple, as we know it, would suck in the real world.

6. The shot itself

The problem with lasers as seen in popular films like Star Wars is that they don’t obey the laws of physics. A laser gun used in combat would feel more like the pen you use to play with cats than any kind of real rifle. Applying actual science to the pop culture weaponry shines a light on how terrible they’d actually be.

There are many works of fiction that employ laser weaponry, so it’s hard to pinpoint all of the problems. If you want to be precise, just know that if the blast moves at a rate slower than 299,792,458 meters per second, then it’s not a laser. Since you can actually see them move in films, they’re plasma — so we’re going to assume this discussion is actually about plasma weaponry from here on out.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Score one for Star Trek for getting that right. (Paramount Television)

5. The cost to produce the weapon

This may not be too much of an issue given that futuristic civilizations often have an entire planet’s or galaxy’s GDP at their disposal, but it’s still worth mentioning. The parts needed aren’t the problem — it’s the power supply that creates the laser and directs it into a single blast.

The power supply would need to be powerful enough to create a blast that deals significant damage. So, you’re looking for elements higher on the periodic table. Even if a fictional, galactic empire had the money, based purely on how unstable radioactive elements above uranium are, you can assume that the means of mining or synthetically creating the power supply needed would be insanely expensive.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
That is, of course, unless you’re supplied with a new unobtainable element creatively named Unobtainium. (20th Century Fox)

4. The weight of the power supply

Unless the power supply is explicitly described as some impossible, fictional element, it’s safe to use uranium as a scientific starting point for theorizing because it’s naturally occurring, stable enough to last more than a few seconds, and, presumably, findable anywhere in the known universe.

A peanut-sized lump of uranium can produce roughly the same amount of energy as 600 pounds of coal. That same peanut-sized lump would approximately be 10cm cubed. That lump alone would weigh 20 kilograms (or around 44 lbs).

Sound heavy? That’s only the beginning. Shielding the wielder from radioactive exposure so that they don’t immediately get cancer would also be a serious concern. Coincidentally, one of the few effective shields against uranium is depleted uranium — which weighs nearly just as much.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
No wonder everyone in Warhammer 40,000 is buff as f*ck. (Games Workshop)

3. The heat after each shot

Now that we’ve explained the fuels and costs involved, let’s break down what a plasma blaster is actually doing. Plasma is considered the fourth state of matter; a substance that is superheated past the point of being a solid, liquid, or gas. If all the kinks were worked out and a power supply could heat up whatever projectile is being fired, it would also need a barrel and firing chamber durable enough to withstand the heat.

A good candidate for the round being fired is cesium because it has the lowest ionization energy and turns to plasma somewhere between 1100 and 1900 degrees Kelvin. The most common element with a higher melting point that would be suitable for weapons manufacturing is boron. Using these elements could ensure the weapon doesn’t liquefy upon pulling the trigger, but the person actually firing the weapon would be undoubtedly toasted.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
And yet everyone still puts their face up to the weapon like it was a firearm from our world. (Bethesda Studios)

2. The speed of the shot

“Laser” weapons used in most sci-fi films are slow, roughly 78 mph according to Wired.  Keep in mind, the muzzle velocity of an M4 carbine is 2970 feet per second — or 2025 mph. Projecting a round by igniting gunpowder simply wouldn’t work with plasma weaponry. Logically speaking, the best way to quickly send plasma down range would be with something like a magnetic rail gun.

The high-energy output needed to superheat cesium would also need to electromagnetize the boron barrel to fire the round. That being said, heat has a demagnetizing effect on all metals. So, even if some futuristic civilization figured out how to heat a cesium round to near 1100 degrees Kelvin without losing magnetism, it’d be damn hard to get the round going 78 mph. In reality, given the length of a typical rifle’s barrel, by the time the round emerged, it’d move at roughly the same speed of a slow-pitched baseball.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
But to be fair, if that superheated cesium plasma round did hit something, it’d be a goner. (TriStar Pictures’ Elysium)

1. Sustained fire

Now let’s summarize all of this into what it’d mean for a futuristic door-kicker.

The weapon would be far too front-heavy to accurately raise into a firing position. The uranium-powered battery would need to be swapped out on a very regular basis (which are also heavy). The time it would take to superheat a cesium round to the point of becoming plasma would be far too long. The slow-moving round fired out of implausible railgun would be far too inaccurate to be used reliably.

All of this brings us to our final point: the second shot. On the bright side, there would be little backward recoil, much like with conventional firearms. The second round would also require much less charging time. But the heat generated from the first round would brittle the barrel and make holding the weapon impossible any — let alone fire like a machine gun.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
So maybe cut stormtroopers a little slack. It’s not them — their weapons just suck. (Disney)

Articles

The Air Force’s anti-missile laser airplane actually took down missiles in testing

Anyone who hates on an airplane with a nose-mounted laser designed to shoot down missiles is wrong. The only problem is that we’re limited by the technology required to make the lasers powerful enough. The Air Force may not have the patience or cash to make it happen, but they proved a long time ago, the concept is sound.

We live in the age of hypersonic missiles, ballistic missiles that can take down aircraft carriers, and potentially dozens of other kinds of warhead-toting rockets just waiting to be tried out on some of America’s finest. There’s no doubt we need some kind of defense.

A Russian Bulava ballistic missile, launched in June 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)

The good news is that the U.S. Air Force has been testing anti-missile lasers for years, and has actually been able to take down missiles in flight. The effort to bring an anti-missile laser to an aircraft was actually kind of a heartwarming supergroup of defense contractors and the story has been a long time coming.

In the 1980s, many may recall the Department of Defense’s Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as the “Star Wars” program. It was one of the earliest efforts to create a laser-based missile defense system. Although mocked by many, throwing money into something like that yielded results.

By the end of the 1980s, the Air Force Airborne Laser Laboratory actually was shooting down missiles with lasers. By the mid-1990s, the Air Force was reaching out to Boeing to get these laser weapons onto an aircraft. 

The 2000s saw a large group of defense contracting companies coming together to create an entirely new airborne defense system. Boeing repurposed an old 747-200 purchased from Air India. It prepared the aircraft to mount a Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) that was prepared specifically for the purpose of airborne defense. 

The COIL, provided by Northrup Grumman, created a powerful, infrared laser that was not only capable of taking down missiles, it was tested and used in a way that was “representative of actual operational engagements.” For those unfamiliar with “govspeak,” this means that the laser was a viable weapon, capable of being used in combat. 

When it came time to build the actual prototype of an anti-missile laser plane, Boeing brought a new 747-400, modified it to fit a nose turret and fire control system created by Lockheed-Martin, and mounted the Northrup Grumman COIL weapon on the front. 

The COIL mounted on the YAL-1 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Boeing YAL-1 was ready for action. Its job would be taking down ballistic missiles while still in the boost phase, actually taking its first flight in 2002. The program lasted a few short years, but produced some mixed yet hopeful results.

Although the weapon worked, it was not operationally viable. Though the laser could shoot down missiles, it would have needed 20-30 times more power to fire the laser a significant distance, according to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. 

Gates went on to note that shooting down missiles in the boost phase, without knowing exactly where they would be fired, might require dozens of these aircraft, flying continuously might require more money than the project was worth. The Air Force didn’t request more funding for the laser project and the prototype was ultimately scrapped. 

Although the program itself ended up not producing a significant weapon, it did prove that lasers could be used as short-range aircraft defense. It also showed that lasers could be a sub-orbital defense against ballistic missiles, something the “Star Wars” program was widely ridiculed for.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hypersonic weapons to be fast-tracked by the Air Force

The Air Force is finishing engineering details on an aggressive plan to prototype, test, and deploy hypersonic weapons on an expedited schedule — to speed up an ability to launch high-impact, high-speed attacks at five times the speed of sound.

Recent thinking from senior Air Force weapons developers had held that US hypersonic weapons might first be deployable by the early 2020s. Hypersonic drones for attack or ISR missions, by extension, were thought to be on track to emerge in the 2030s and 2040s, senior service officials have told Warrior Maven.


Now, an aggressive new Air Force hypersonic weapons prototyping and demonstration effort is expected to change this time frame in a substantial way.

“I am working with the team on acceleration and I am very confident that a significant acceleration is possible,” said Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.”

The effort involves two separate trajectories, including the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon.

“The Air Force is using prototyping to explore the art-of-the-possible and to advance these technologies to a capability as quickly as possible. We continue to partner with DARPA on two science and technology flight demonstration programs: Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and Tactical Boost Glide,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

A “boost glide” hypersonic weapon is one that flies on an upward trajectory up into the earth’s atmosphere before using the speed of its descent to hit and destroy targets, senior officials said.

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon effort involves using mature technologies which have not yet been integrated for air-launched delivery, Grabowski added.

“The ARRW effort will “push the art-of-the-possible” by leveraging the technical base established by the Air Force/DARPA partnership,” she said. “The two systems have different flight profiles, payload sizes, and provide complementary offensive capabilities.”

The Air Force recently took a major step forward in the process by awarding an HCSW prototyping deal to Lockheed Martin.

As the most senior Air Force acquisition leader who works closely with the services’ Chief of Staff, Roper was clear not to pinpoint an as-of-yet undetermined timeline. He did, however, praise the hypersonic weapons development team and say the particulars of the acceleration plan would emerge soon. Roper talked about speeding up hypersonic weapons within the larger context of ongoing Air Force efforts to streamline and expedite weapons acquisition overall.

Roper explained the rationale for not waiting many more years for a “100-percent” solution if a highly impactful “90-percent” solution can be available much sooner. Often referred to as “agile acquisition” by Air Force senior leaders, to include service Secretary Heather Wilson, fast-tracked procurement efforts seek quicker turn around of new software enhancements, innovations, and promising combat technologies likely to have a substantial near-term impact. While multi-year developmental programs are by no means disappearing, the idea is to circumvent some of the more bureaucratic and cumbersome elements of the acquisition process.

The Air Force, and Pentagon, need hypersonic weapons very quickly, officials explain, and there is broad consensus that the need for hypersonic weapons is, at the moment, taking on a new urgency.

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.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Artist concept of the Boeing X-51 Waverider.

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.

Along these lines, the advent of hypersonic weapons is a key reason why some are questioning the future survivability of large platforms such as aircraft carriers. How are ship-based sensors, radar and layered defenses expected to succeed in detecting tracking and intercepting or destroying an approaching hypersonic weapon traveling at five-times the speed of sound.

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.

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.

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.

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

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, senior weapons developers have told Warrior.

While Roper did not address any specific threats, he did indicate that the acceleration is taking place within a high-threat global environment. Both Russia and China have been visibly conducting hypersonic weapons tests, leading some to raise the question as to whether the US could be behind key rivals in this area.

“We are not the only ones interested in hypersonics,” Roper told reporters.

A report cited in The National Interest cites a report from The Diplomat outlining Chinese DF-17 hypersonic missile tests in November 2017.

During the tests – “a hypersonic glide vehicle detached from the missile during the reentry phase and flew approximately 1,400 kilometers to a target,” The Diplomat report states.

Also, Pentagon is fast-tracking sensor and command and control technology development to improve defenses against fast-emerging energy hypersonic weapons threats from major rivals, US Missile Defense Agency officials said in early 2018.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA wants to use ocean life to monitor strategic areas

The world’s vast oceans and seas offer seemingly endless spaces in which adversaries of the United States can maneuver undetected. The U.S. military deploys networks of manned and unmanned platforms and sensors to monitor adversary activity, but the scale of the task is daunting and hardware alone cannot meet every need in the dynamic marine environment. Sea life, however, offers a potential new advantage. Marine organisms are highly attuned to their surroundings — their survival depends on it — and a new program out of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office aims to tap into their natural sensing capabilities to detect and signal when activities of interest occur in strategic waters such as straits and littoral regions.


Also read: DARPA’s next big project is an airplane-deployed drone swarm

The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, led by program manager Lori Adornato, will study natural and modified organisms to determine which ones could best support sensor systems that detect the movement of manned and unmanned underwater vehicles. PALS will investigate marine organisms’ responses to the presence of such vehicles, and characterize the resulting signals or behaviors so they can be captured, interpreted, and relayed by a network of hardware devices.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Juvenile Altantic spotted dolphin

“The U.S. Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Adornato said. “If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”

Beyond sheer ubiquity, sensor systems built around living organisms would offer a number of advantages over hardware alone. Sea life adapts and responds to its environment, and it self-replicates and self-sustains. Evolution has given marine organisms the ability to sense stimuli across domains — tactile, electrical, acoustic, magnetic, chemical, and optical. Even extreme low light is not an obstacle to organisms that have evolved to hunt and evade in the dark.

However, evaluating the sensing capabilities of sea life is only one of the challenges for PALS researchers. Performer teams supporting DARPA will also have to develop hardware, software, and algorithms to translate organism behavior into actionable information and then communicate it to end users. Deployed hardware systems operating at a standoff distance of up to 500 meters must collect signals of interest from relevant species, process and distill them, and then relay them to remote end users. The complete sensing systems must also discriminate between target vehicles and other sources of stimuli, such as debris and other marine organisms, to limit the number of false positives.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
(Photo by New Zealand Defence Force Photographer Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn)

Adornato is aiming to demonstrate the approach and its advantages in realistic environments to convey military utility.

“Our ideal scenario for PALS is to leverage a wide range of native marine organisms, with no need to train, house, or modify them in any way, which would open up this type of sensing to many locations,” Adornato said.

Related: Amazing photos show an underwater graveyard filled with WWII airplanes

DARPA favors proposals that employ natural organisms, but proposers are able to suggest modifications. To the extent researchers do propose solutions that would tune organisms’ reporting mechanisms, the proposers will be responsible for developing appropriate environmental safeguards to support future deployment. However, at no point in the PALS program will DARPA test modified organisms outside of contained, biosecure facilities.

DARPA anticipates that PALS will be a four-year, fundamental research program requiring contributions in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, machine learning, analytics, oceanography, mechanical and electrical engineering, and weak signals detection.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s only carrier would fight an American carrier

It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.


Now, both carriers have had their problems. If you’re a loyal WATM reader, you have followed the Kuznetsov Follies. We are talking a first deployment that featured two splash landings, needing to operate planes from land bases, not to mention the fact that the new fighter is a possible dud and the carrier is a floating hell for the crew.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.

Related video:

But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.

Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

popular

This ‘Einstein Box’ helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

America’s troops have very awesome tactical gear, even through all the teething problems that systems like the F-35 Lightning II have had.


That said, all that gear can’t win a war unless you can come up with a good plan.

During a walk-through demonstration given by Lockheed Martin at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held at National Harbor, Maryland, the company explained how the technology and capabilities of mission planning are set to take a huge step forward.

But what’s it like now?

The present state of integrating the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber components in the military was described as a series of stovepipes by Kim Ponders of Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works.

Hiccups with this integration sometimes means that different components go after the same target.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
Lockheed concept art of multi-domain command and control (MD2C). (Graphic from Lockheed)

In essence, a JDAM dropped from a F-35 could very well hit an SA-20 command vehicle that was already fried by a cyber attack, and the site then gets hits by Tomahawk cruise missiles, even though the missiles are useless without a command vehicle.

While there are times that overkill can help, there are circumstances — like a target-rich environment or when you are short of munitions — where overkill can be a problem.

Skunk Works seeks to change that by using open-systems architecture to create a multi-domain command and control system. One key component called the Einstein Box was tested during Northern Edge earlier this year.

In essence, this helps network 4th-generation fighters with the 5th-generation fighters without compromising the stealth of the F-22s and F-35s. During that exercise, the Einstein Box was placed on one of the early successes of the Skunk Works, the U-2 Dragon Lady.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot

This merging of systems ranging from the F-22 Raptor to destroyers and cruisers equipped with Aegis to the control system for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile to the Space-Based Infrared System will eventually make it a lot harder to the bad guys, largely because American (and allied) troops will be able to pass information to each other much faster than before.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
From this angle, you can see some of the displays used for planning in the cyber, space, and air domains. (Photo from Lockheed)

By being able to pass the information faster, American troops will be able to rapidly pair platforms with targets. This will help them make the most of their assets on the scene. Lockheed even has teamed up with Raytheon and SRC to design a new JSTARS that could carry out MDC2.

How the Army crime lab turns military cold cases hot
A look at some of the consoles in a mockup of Lockheed’s proposed replacement for the E-8 JSTARS. (Lockheed photo)

This means that in the future, the pilot of a F-35 could detect a radar emission, and other assets (either special operation forces on the ground or a satellite) could very quickly tell that pilot whether the emitter is real or a decoy, how far it is from the van, and the pilot can then address the threat, or be told that another asset will handle it. Rapidly getting that information to everyone will eventually help save the lives of American troops, and that’s a very good thing.

Lockheed has a video on the MDC2 concept below.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information