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Diplomacy & Crisis News

RIP: How the Radio-Controlled Battleship USS Utah Sunk

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 23:30

Robert Farley


Attacked at pearl harbor.

Two weeks ago, the United States almost went to war over the downing of a drone along the Iranian border. This is not, strangely enough, the first time that an attack against the United States began with violence against a drone. On December 7, 1941, one of the first attacks conducted by Japanese aircraft was launched against the former battleship USS Utah, a radio-controlled target ship. Today, USS Utah remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, a memorial to those lost in the surprise attack. 


USS Utah (BB-31) was the sixth dreadnought battleship commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Like the preceding Delaware-class, Utah and her sister Florida carried ten 12” gun in five twin, center-line turrets. Displacing 23,000 tons, Utah could make 21 knots on steam turbines. She and her sister were the first U.S. battleships to use turbines, although some later ships would revert to reciprocating engines. 

The commissioning of Utah gave the USN a squadron of four modern battleships, behind the British but competitive with the Germans. Michigan and South Carolina, the first U.S. dreadnoughts, were too slow to operate in the line of battle. The USN took pains to avoid the interoperability problems that plagued its British, German, and Japanese counterparts. Between 1910 and 1921, the battleships were all relatively heavily armed, armored, and consistent in speed. It was not difficult, therefore, for the fleet to operate as a unit. In contrast, the Royal Navy included battlecruisers—which, while useful for many operations, could not operate safely in the battle line. Also, the dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy varied widely in speed; this could be a handicap in battle, as faster ships could get separated from slower. The Kaiserliche Marine and the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered from similar issues. 

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Meet THOR, the Air Force's New Drone-Killing Microwave Gun

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 22:30

Task and Purpose

Technology, Americas

Coming to a base near you.

"It's built to negate swarms of drones," Anderson said. "We want to drop many of them at one time without a single leaker getting through."

U.S. military bases across the globe may soon have a New Mexico-made, high-powered microwave weapon at their disposal to instantaneously down swarms of enemy drones." frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base unveiled the weapon Thursday morning in a live demonstration with local reporters, who watched the system effortlessly knock a hovering drone out of the sky with an invisible and inaudible electromagnetic wave.

The $15 million system, called the Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR, disabled the unmanned aerial vehicle in a flash, sending it spiraling to the ground the moment the electromagnetic ray hit it. Had more drones been flying within THOR's expansive scope, they also would have dropped in an instant, THOR program manager Amber Anderson said.

"It operates like a flashlight," Anderson said after the demonstration. "It spreads out when the operator hits the button, and anything within that cone will be taken down. It engages in the blink of an eye."

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Scientists Built a Laser Than Can Detect Your Heartbeat 650 Feet Away

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 21:30

Task and Purpose

Technology, Americas


"I don't want to say you could do it from space, but longer ranges should be possible." Steward Remaly, a defense official in the Pentagon's Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, told MIT Technology Review.

Just as everyone has unique fingerprints, everyone also has a unique heartbeat, and that concept is crucial to the US military's newest identification device.

The Department of Defense, at the request of U.S. special operations forces, used this principle to develop an infrared laser that can identify enemy combatants from a distance by reading their cardiac signature, the MIT Technology Review reported Thursday, citing Pentagon officials.

Jetson, as the U.S. military's new device is called, uses laser vibrometry (non-contact vibration measurements) to detect surface movement caused by a person's heartbeat. The device is an extension of existing technology, such as already available equipment for measuring vibrations in distant structures like wind turbines.

The laser is reportedly able to penetrate clothing and achieve a positive identification roughly 95 percent of the time from up to 200 meters away, or about 650 feet, and there is the real possibility that the range could be extended.

"I don't want to say you could do it from space, but longer ranges should be possible." Steward Remaly, a defense official in the Pentagon's Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, told MIT Technology Review.

This technology is still in its early stages. The laser device can't penetrate thick clothing and the person must be sitting or standing in one place for it to work. It takes about 30 seconds to get a reading.

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Stealth Suprise: Is Japan's New Submarine a Game Changer?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 19:30

Sebastien Roblin


Or a dud?

In June 2019, submarine manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries hosted a presentation (subsequently shared on Twitter) revealing plans for Japan’s next-generation submarine, dubbed the 29SS or “New 3,000-[metric] ton Submarine.” 

Documents reveal the 29SS will begin development in 2025–2028, and is targeted for entry into service in 2031. The lead ship is estimated to cost 76 billion yen ($710 million) and will likely serve primarily for testing and development purposes.

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) is planning to increase its submarine fleet to twenty-two operational diesel and AIP-powered submarines, plus one testing and two training submarines. The increase is likely meant to counterbalance China’s burgeoning undersea fleet of around seventy submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines.

To enable this expansion, Japan’s 2019 defense budget includes funding to upgrade and increase the service life of seven older Oyashio-class diesel-electric submarines which entered service in the 1990s. 

Meanwhile, Kawasaki Heavy Industries is currently completing a twelfth Soryu-class submarine weighing 2,900 metric tons surfaced, with three more likely to be built by KHI and MHI. Unlike earlier Soryu boats, the final flight has swapped out its air-independent propulsion system for long-lasting lithium-ion batteries (LIBs)—a larger-scale, ruggedized adaptation of the lightweight, high-power-density batteries used in smartphones and laptops.

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Is Russia Creating A Nazi-Style Army of Genetic Supersoldiers?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 18:30

Michael Peck


That sounds terrifying.

Want to be a Russian paratrooper or tank commander? Then you’d better hope you have the right genes.

The Russian military will be assigning soldiers based on their “genetic passports.”

“The project is far-reaching, scientific, fundamental,” Alexander Sergeyev, the chief of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, told Russian news agency TASS (English translation here). “Its essence is to find such genetic predispositions among military personnel, which will allow them to be properly oriented according to military specialties.”

“It is a question of understanding at the genetic level who is more prone to, for example, to service in the fleet, who may be more prepared to become a paratrooper or a tankman.”

Advances in medical technology are making genetic testing a common medical procedure. It is used to detect genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, or the risk of developing certain diseases such as colorectal cancer. Pregnant women can also choose to be tested to determine whether their baby has genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin has embraced genetics with a passion. In March, the Kremlin issued a decree that called for “implementation of genetic certification of the population, taking into account the legal framework for the protection of data on the personal human genome and the formation of the genetic profile of the population.” Ostensibly this is to protect Russia’s population against chemical and biological attack, as well as safeguard Russia’s genetic patrimony from Western spies and saboteurs.

It has also spurred fears that Russia is edging towards a Nazi-style eugenics program in which certain groups, such as those Russians of Slavic ancestry, will be favored.

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The HK Universal Service Pistol: Just How Good Is This Gun?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 17:30

Kyle Mizokami

Guns, North America

We have some ideas.

In the 1990s, U.S. Special Operations Command went looking for a new pistol. The new handgun would arm commandos from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, giving them a next generation handgun with the latest technology. One outgrowth of that program was the Heckler and Koch Universal Service Pistol, a handgun available today in the U.S. domestic firearms market. Although nearly thirty years old, the USP’s feature set still makes it competitive alongside the latest pistols.

In 1991, U.S. SOCOM—the parent command for several Army, Navy, and Air Force special operations units—issued a requirement for a new handgun. SOCOM wanted a hard-hitting pistol that combined a high ammunition capacity, a variety of aiming devices, luminous sights and ambidextrous manual safety. The Offensive Handgun Weapon System (OHWS) was also to be capable of firing high-pressure +P rounds that dramatically increased muzzle velocity and energy. The contract was for up to 8,000 pistols, plus accessories, a relative rarity at a time the rest of the U.S. military was engaged in a post-Cold War drawdown.

Heckler and Koch’s submission for the OHWS was based on the company’s new Universal Service Pistol. The USP was developed in the late 1980s as a response to the wave of European “Wonder Nine” high capacity pistols flooding the American firearms market. So prevalent was the wave that even the U.S. Army adopted a foreign handgun, the M9. The USP was initially aimed at the law enforcement and commercial markets. Police and sheriff departments across the U.S. were rapidly adopting the new .40 Smith & Wesson round, so the USP was initially chambered in the new midrange round. The company later released 9 millimeter and .45 ACP versions.

The USP is 7.68 inches long with a height of 5.31 inches. It is 1.26 inches wide, making it relatively narrow among high capacity autoloaders, with even the .45 ACP version the same width. Barrel length is 4.25 inches, the same as a Colt Commander-type handgun. The .40 Smith & Wesson version could carry up to 13 rounds in a magazine, the .45 ACP version 12 rounds, and the 9-millimeter version 15 rounds.

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History Made: Last Year, Israel's F-35 Were First Ever to a Launch Attack

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 16:30

Dario Leone


Game changer.

The F-35 stealth fighter has seen its first ever combat action, flying in an operation for the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

On May 22, 2018 in fact Maj Gen Amikam Norkin, IAF chief, told heads of 20 foreign air forces meeting in Israel at the International Air Force Commander Conference that “The ‘Adir’ (F-35I) aircraft are already operational and flying combat missions. In fact, we have performed the first operational F-35 strike in the world. We attacked twice in the Middle East using the F-35 (and) we are the first in the world to do so. The Israeli Air Force is a pioneer and a world leader in operating air power.” He did not specify the targets.

“Israel launched world’s first air strike using F-35 stealth fighters,” IAF chief says

“You know that we just won the Eurovision with the song ‘Toy.’ Well, the F-35 is not a toy,” he said.

According BBC, Israel’s claim to have used it in an operational strike even before the Americans may be designed as a further show of military strength, since it is believed that elite Iranian forces are trying to entrench themselves in Syria to threaten Israel.

Israel said its recent air strikes inside Syria targeted Iranian military infrastructure, in response to rocket fire aimed at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights.

“Over the past weeks, we understood that Iran was transporting long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, among which are ‘Uragan’ missile launchers which we attacked, just north of Damascus,” Maj. Gen. Norkin added. “The Iranians fired 32 rockets towards Israel. We intercepted four of them, while the rest fell outside of Israel’s territory. Afterward, we attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria. Sadly, the Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 SAM (Surface-to-air missiles) at our aircraft using SA-5, SA-17, and SA-22 missile batteries. In response, we destroyed their SAM batteries. A short time later, we destroyed a 20-meter deep Hamas tunnel.”

Iran has hundreds of personnel in Syria, who it says serve as military advisers to the Syrian army. It has also sent thousands of volunteer fighters in support of the Syrian government.

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Why Israel’s Self-Thinking Smart Bomb is Dangerous

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 15:30

Michael Peck


Ultimate weapon or a threat to mankind?

An Israeli company has unveiled a smart bomb that is truly smart.

The SPICE-250 glide bomb has the ability to autonomously recognize and select targets. But how safe is a bomb that can pick its own targets?

Israeli manufacturer Rafael calls this Automatic Target Recognition, which relies on electro-optic sensors (which process light into sensor data) and Artificial Intelligence. “The newly-unveiled ATR feature is a technological breakthrough, enabling SPICE-250 to effectively learn the specific target characteristics ahead of the strike, using advanced AI and deep-learning technologies,” according to a Rafael announcement. “During flight, the pilot selects the target type to be attacked and allocates a target to each weapon. The weapons are launched towards the vicinity of the targets, using their INS [inertial navigation] for initial navigation. When approaching the target area, the weapons use the ATR mode for detection and recognition of the targets. Each weapon homes-in on the pre-defined target, either autonomously or with a human-in-the-loop, aided by the ATR algorithm.”

The SPICE-250 is a glide bomb with a range of 75 kilometers (47 miles) and armed with a 75-kilogram (165-pound) warhead. A single F-16 can carry sixteen of these weapons.

The SPICE-250 uses terrain data, 3-D models and algorithms to identify targets amid the surrounding clutter of objects and terrain in the kill zone, Rafael deputy marketing manager Gideon Weiss told IT magazine Insight Analytics. A two-way data link and video stream enable a pilot to retarget the weapon until just seconds before impact.

Yet most significant is that if the primary target cannot be hit, the SPICE-250’s AI algorithms can select a secondary target. “This goes into the area of user-defined policies and rules of engagement, and it is up to the users to decide on how to apply the weapon, when and where to use it, and how to define target recognition probabilities and its eventuality,” Weiss said.,

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Forget the AK-47: This Sig Sauer Rifle Might Be Better

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 14:30

Charlie Gao


Take a look.

In February 2019, the Indian Army announced the purchase of SIG716G2 7.62x51mm battle rifles. The SIG716 is meant to complement their purchase of AK-103 rifles from Russia and Caracal CAR 816 carbines. This will mean that the Indian Army will field service rifles in three different calibers in the near future: 7.62x51 in the Sig, 7.62x39 in the AK, and 5.56x45 in the Caracal.

But in the tender for the Indian Army contract, the Sig was mentioned to have beat out two other 7.62x51mm battle rifles for the final purchase: The Caracal CAR817 and an Israeli rifle from IWI, which either could have been the Galil ACE 7.62 or Tavor 7.

So how does the Sig rifle stack up to these competitors? Which factors could have lead to its eventual purchase by the Indian military?

In layout, the SIG716G2 is practically identical to the Caracal CAR817. Both rifles are AR-pattern 7.62x51mm battle rifles that utilize a short-stroke tappet gas piston mounted above the barrel. There are some minor differences between the two rifles in internal layout, piston design, and ergonomic features, but the primary functional difference is the setup of the gas block.

On the CAR817, the gas block is railed to mount a forward iron sight, presumably to better hold zero as the ironsight is mounted directly onto the barrel. However, on the CAR 817, this means that the rail terminates at the gas block, preventing the mounting of lights and lasers far forward on the rifle, where many users prefer to place them.

In contrast, the SIG716G2 has a low profile gas block that fits under the rail that allows the rail to extend further forward. Small cuts in the rail give space for a tool to adjust the gas block to different gas settings. The SIG’s longer rail and low profile gas block appear to be the most popular barrel and rail configuration on rifles nowadays, being used on U.S. Army SOF’s new URG-I and various other popular Colt Canada, SIG, and H&K rifles.

The SIG716G2’s gas block is also additionally tunable, having four gas positions including an “off” setting for launching rifle grenades, compared to the CAR817’s two gas positions, which don’t include a full off.

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We Can Prove It: This Plane Has Better Stealth and Is Faster Than an F-22 Raptor

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 14:05

Dario Leone


Take a peak. 

The video in this post features an interesting interview with YF-23 PAV-2 (Prototype Air Vehicle 2) Test Pilot Jim Sandberg about the PAV-2 first flight (landing gear problem). Sandberg also conducts a walk-around of the aircraft discussing typical checks he performed prior to a test flight.

Currently, the YF-23 PAV-2 is on display at the Western Museum of Flight.

The YF-23A PAV-2 (S/N 87-801) on display at the Western Museum of Flight is on long term loan to the Western Museum of Flight from NASA. The Western Museum of Flight’s YF-23A PAV-2 used two General Electric YF120 engines. YF-23A PAV-1 used two Pratt & Whitney YF119 engines. PAV-2 was delivered in October 1995 to the Northrop Grumman Hawthorne facility where it underwent some preliminary repairs in preparation for formal restoration activities at the Western Museum of Flight.

As we have previously explained the Northrop YF-23A was designed to meet USAF needs for survivability, ease of maintenance and supercruise.

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War Talk: Could U.S. Forces Execute an Amphibious Assault against Iran?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 13:42

Kyle Mizokami

Iran, Iran

What would that look like? Is that possible?

One of the greatest truisms of life is that land wars in Asia are futile. The continent’s vastness allows defenders to trade space for time, extending the logistical lifelines of invaders to the breaking point. This argument holds for Iran, which at a population of one quarter that of the United States and the size of the West Coast is too large for even the largest of modern armies to occupy. But what about an amphibious raid against select targets on Iran’s coastline? Military action against the Islamic Republic is by no means imminent or even on the horizon, but it’s important for the public to understand the tools the Pentagon—and the White House—believe they have in their toolboxes. 

As The National Interest noted last week, Iran has a sprawling coastline. At 1,550 miles, Iran’s southern coastline is longer than that of California, Oregon and Washington combined. While such a long sea border is useful for projecting power into the narrow Persian Gulf, it is also a double-edged sword. The downside is that Iran has 1,550 miles of coastline it must defend from a highly capable amphibious force such as the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps trains for a broad spectrum of operations, from pilot and aircraft personnel recovery to full-scale amphibious and airmobile assaults. One type of operation the service specializes in is the amphibious raid: using a small landing force to capture an objective, occupy it for a short period for a specific purpose, and then evacuate back to the sea.

If tensions with Iran continue to heat up, one option would be to stage an amphibious raid against a land or sea-based Iranian military facility. Iran has a large number of military facilities along its coastline belonging both to the Iranian Navy and the naval arm of the Revolutionary Guards. The Navy typically operates east of the Strait of Hormuz, while the Revolutionary Guards operate west of the Strait and generally across the Persian Gulf. The Iranian Navy operates larger, more capable ships, while the Revolutionary Guards Naval Forces tend to operate smaller watercraft, along the lines of civilian speed boats armed with heavy infantry weapons.

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The Air Force Just Closed The Door on New F-22 Raptors

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 12:00

TNI Staff


Is this the end for America's air superiority fighter?

As the Air Force explained in the report, the aging F-22 design will not be competitive against an evolving threat as nations like Russia and China continue to invest in new technologies. “Moving closer to 2030, it is important to acknowledge that threat capabilities have and will continue to evolve at a rapid rate, creating highly contested environments,” the report reads.​

A 2017 Pentagon report to Congress detailing production retail costs for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor show that reviving the powerful stealth air superiority fighter would be prohibitively expensive. Moreover, it would take so long to reconstitute the production line that it would not be until the mid to late 2020s before the first “new” F-22s would have flown. By that time, the F-22 would be increasingly challenged by enemy—Russian and Chinese—capabilities.

(This first appeared last year.)

“The timeline associated with pursuing F-22 production restart would see new F-22 deliveries starting in the mid-to-late 2020s,” the Air Force report to Congress reads. “While the F-22 continues to remain the premier air superiority solution against the current threat, new production deliveries would start at a point where the F-22' s capabilities will begin to be challenged by the advancing threats in the 2030 and beyond timeframe. F-22 production re-sta1t would also directly compete against the resources necessary to pursue the Chief of Staff of the Air Force-signed Air Superiority 2030 (AS 2030) Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team (ECCT) Flight Plan, which addresses the critical capabilities required to persist, survive, and be lethal in the rapidly evolving-highly-contested Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) threat-environment.”

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Check out This Video: One of Iran's F-14s Fighters Performed a Night Scramble

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 11:30

Dario Leone


A sight to behold.

The following gorgeous video shows a night scramble of a fully armed Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) F-14A Tomcat.

As you can see the several video clips show almost every air-to-air weapon carried by IRIAF F-14s.

Noteworthy along with the M61A1 Vulan 20mm internal cannon, AIM-54 Phoenix radar-guided long-range air-to-air missile, AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range semi-active radar homing air-to-air missile and AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile, Iranian Tomcats can be loaded also with the Fakour-90 air-to-air missile and MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air-missile (SAM) used as air-to-air missile.

The Fakour is a copy of the Hughes AIM-54 Phoenix missile that was sold together with the F-14 to Iran in the late 1970s.

The missile was developed by the Iranian Army, Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, and IRIAF. In Oct. 2011, it was announced that the missile had reached the stage of mass production.

The IRIAF has experimented a number of MIM-23 Hawk missiles for carriage on F-14 Tomcat fighters in the air-to-air role under a program known as Sky Hawk in the 1980s. As explained by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop in their book Iranian F-14 Tomcat units in combat, project Sky Hawk was discontinued soon after the war with Iraq ended. According to former IRIAF officers, it was not particularly successful as the data-link between the AWG-9 radar and the missile proved too weak. The Hawk’s ability to convert radar signals from the AWG-9 was also criticised.

The U.S. Navy retired the iconic Tomcat on Sep. 22, 2006 and today the F-14 remains in in service with IRIAF.

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Head to Head: Could Iranian Submarines Imperil the U.S. Navy?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 11:00

Sebastien Roblin


There is a chance.

Though the new Iranian boats may remain far from the cutting edge of submarine design, they could still prove dangerous adversaries in the confined and shallow waters of the Persian Gulf.​

The Iranian military has long planned for a defensive naval war in the Persian Gulf, in which it would leverage its large fleet of fast attack boats toting antiship missiles to launch swarming hit-and-run attacks on adversaries in along Persian Gulf, with the ultimate goal of shutting down passage through the Straits of Hormuz.

Supporting this naval guerilla-warfare strategy are twenty-one indigenously produced Ghadir-class mini submarines, derived from the North Korean Yono class. The 120-ton vessels can poke around at eleven knots (thirteen miles per hour) and each carry two 533-millimeter torpedoes. All in all, shallow littoral waters are very favorable for mini-submarine operations, with interference from rocky shallows and loud surf reducing sonar detection ranges and giving mini submarines abundant opportunities to hide and wait in ambush. On the high end of the capability spectrum, Iran operates three much larger and more capable Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines purchased from Russia in the 1990s. These can comfortably hunt in the waters of the Indian Ocean.

(This first appeared in October 2017.)

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Four years ago, Iran also launched its own domestically built Fateh-class submarine. The homemade vessel may lack modern features such as antiship missiles or quiet Air Independent Propulsion system, but it does seem to be the genuine article—not something one should take for granted with reports of new Iranian weapons.

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Why would Iran invest considerable sums in building its own submarines instead of shelling out for off-the-shelf hardware in Russia or China?

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F-35s Are So 2010: Europe's 6th Generation Might Be a Game Changer

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 10:30

Michael Peck


But will they build it?

Ever since the guns fell silent in 1945, Europe has always been in third place in the global arms race.

Nations such as Britain, France and Sweden could devise weapons of clever and innovative design. But when it came to weapons technology, the innovation came from the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia, who were willing to spend vast amounts of treasure on military research and development.

But is a new generation of weapons coming that will put Europe on a par with America and Russia?

At the Paris Air Show last week, a model of the Future Air Combat System drew crowds. A sixth-generation fighter of Franco-German-Spanish parentage (though of largely French descent), it might be Europe’s counterpart to whatever manned jets—or drones—succeed the U.S. fifth-generation U.S. F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, or Russia’s Su-57.

FCAS is built around futuristic concepts: stealth configuration, long-range missiles and—most importantly—manned-unmanned teaming. Like a stealth queen, the fighter will be attended by a retinue of drones that will do much of the dirty work of fighting, scouting and taking the brunt of enemy fire. The United States is working on the same concept with its Loyal Wingman program and the XQ-58 drone, a mini-F-35 lookalike that will work with manned aircraft like a pack of hunting dogs and their master.

Not to be outdone by its Continental cousins from whom it is separating, Britain is developing its own sixth-generation fighter. The laser-armed Tempest is envisioned entering service around 2035.

These advanced jets may have some advanced weapons. European defense firm MBDA unveiled some advanced missile concepts. Swarms of aircraft-launched gliders that can overwhelm a target fifty miles away, while the manned aircraft safely stand off from the fray. Stealthy, low-flying missiles that would enemy bunkers. A supersonic missile that can take out enemy aircraft, ships and air defenses.

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Could This New Threat Bring Down the Peerless F-22 Raptor?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 10:00

Sebastien Roblin


A threat they never expected. A threat that can't be stopped.

The incident has also spotlighted the Pentagon’s struggles with operational readiness. Of the fifty-five Raptors at Tyndall, only 60 percent were able to fly out of the base with a few days’ notice. In fact, while the finicky Raptor has an especially poor fleet-wide readiness rate of forty-nine percent, even less maintenance-intensive aircraft such as F-16s and F-15 average only seventy to seventy-five percent operational readiness, and that figure may go back down to fifty percent for Marine and Navy fighter units.​

The F-22 Raptor may be the most elusive fighter ever built. It has a radar-cross section the size of a marble, and if it gets into trouble, it can rocket away traveling up to two-and-a-half times the speed of sound—so fast that the friction from the air would melt its radar-absorbent coatings right off its airframe. But this October, the Air Force discovered that a Raptor with its wings clipped can’t evade the force of nature.

(This first appeared late last year.)

Tyndall Air Force Base, located on a coastal peninsula across from Panama City, Florida, is a sprawling twenty-nine thousand-acre complex which at the beginning of October housed fifty-five F-22 Raptors of the 325th Fighter Wing—nearly a third of all F-22s built, making it the primary center for Raptor pilot training. It also houses QF-16 jet fighter drones used for Full-Scale Aerial Target tests, T-38 supersonic jet trainers and Mitsubishi Mu-2 twin-engine utility planes used to train AWACS crews in airborne-early warning skills.

On October 9, 2018, Hurricane Michael was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, with winds measuring between 130 to 150 miles per hour and a storm surge as high as fourteen feet (Tyndall is about twelve feet above sea level). The Air Force had just a few days to evacuate.

Thirty-three Raptors were flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Fortunately, all of the four thousand active-duty personnel at the base and their families were evacuated before the storm hit, save for a small skeleton crew.

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Why the Navy SEALs Loved the Sig Sauer P226 Gun

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 09:30

Charlie Gao


A legend.

While the Sig Sauer P226 is used by many militaries and agencies worldwide, one of the most famous users of the pistol is the U.S. Navy SEALs, which used the P226 up until they switched to the Glock 19 around 2015. But the pistol has constantly evolved throughout its service with the Navy SEALs: there are three practical generations of P226s that have been used by the SEALs.

The first generation of P226 was adopted by the Navy SEALs following some embarrassing issues that happened during the XM9 pistol trials that resulted in the adoption of the Beretta 92 by all services. A slide on a Beretta failed and hit a Navy SEAL in the face, causing him minor injury. While Beretta would address this flaw in the issued version of the M9, the damage was already done, and the SEALs chose the P226, a runner up design, as their primary service pistol.

However, poor experiences with 9mm ball ammunition would lead special units to develop the Mk 23 Offensive Handgun Weapon System, chambered in .45 ACP. These hulking pistols would go on to be used by the Navy SEALs, under the designation Mk 23, but was soon found to be too big and heavy for practical use. So, in the late 1990s, the Navy decided to buy more P226s, but designated them Mk 24, as they were the next pistol adopted after the Mk 23.

The Mk 24 differed from earlier P226s as it was purpose built for the SEALs and the demands for their environment, featuring a chrome lined chamber and barrel, a proprietary Sig rail and a new finish on the slide. The characteristic anchor was also present on the slide, indicating that the pistol was purpose-built for Naval Special Operations Forces.

However, the SEALs again would request a dedicated suppressed .45 caliber handgun. H&K would answer the call again with a the HK45C, which was adopted, confusingly, under the designation Mk 24 Mod 0.

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A Retired General Explains Why The U.S. Army Can't Be Beat

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 09:00

Tom Spoehr


Good luck China.

Culminating one of the biggest logistical operations in decades, on Dec. 18, 2011, two weeks ahead of schedule, the last convoy left Iraq, with all troops and equipment all safely accounted for.

Friday, June 14 is the U.S. Army’s 244th birthday. 

Since it was born in 1775, even before the birth of the nation itself, the Army has always responded to fight our wars, provide disaster support, build dams and levees, enforce desegregation, and help partner nations develop their own armies.

The history of the Army is the history of the nation.

As one of the largest organizations in the world, the U.S. Army has provided millions of Americans the opportunity for advancement, individual development, and progress without regard for socioeconomic standing, race, gender, or background. Countless numbers who have served have gone on to higher education using the education benefits, such as the GI Bill, provided by a grateful nation.

(This originally appeared last month.)

Does the Army always get it right? Like most large organizations, the answer is no. Despite its best efforts, the Army occasionally botches things. 

For example, the Chemical Corps, the branch I served in, helped set up tests where soldiers were exposed to nuclear blasts in the 1950s. The record of the Army’s interaction with Native Americans in the West is similarly checkered. But these are by far the exceptions.

Despite its misfires, you can trust the Army to do its level best to obey laws, uphold America’s values, respect citizens, and accomplish the mission.

Soldiers understand that Americans invest a lot of trust in the military and do their best to return that trust. Indeed, the military, for dozens of years, has been the institution that Americans invest the most trust in, with 74% saying they have a “great deal/quite a lot” of confidence.

Never was the “can do” spirit of the Army more evident to me than in 2011 when I was serving in Iraq as the deputy commanding general for support. The U.S. was facing an agreed-upon deadline to have every service member and piece of military equipment out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.   

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The F-23/Y-23: The Air Force Plane That Refuses to Disappear

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 08:00

David Axe


What led to this?

The Air Force’s requirements were both vague and ambitious. The only specifications were that the new fighter be fast, far-flying, maneuverable and stealthy. “We were asked to create something that had never existed,” Metz said.​

The mystique that today surrounds Northrop Grumman’s YF-23 isn’t entirely healthy. It reflects a tendency in many Americans to look for technological solutions to human problems.

Buying F-23s instead of F-22s wouldn’t have changed the recent arc of U.S. history. It wouldn’t have stopped Russia’s resurgence or China’s rise as a world power. Trading Lockheed’s stealth fighter for Northrop’s own plane wouldn’t have halted the spreads of radical Islamic terrorism and right-wing militancy.

(This first appeared in May 2019.)

But the development and flight-testing of the YF-23 do offer important lessons for the Air Force as it begins studying a replacement for the F-22. The Air Force in 2016 published its “Air Superiority 2030” study, which called for a new “Penetrating Counter Air” system to supplant the service’s roughly 180 F-22s beginning in the 2030s.

The Air Force in 2017 initiated an analysis of alternatives to further refine concepts for the Penetrating Counter Air system. Service officials have said they strongly are interested in a “disaggregated” approach to air superiority that involves a wide array of systems working together.

That approach could represent a break from the past. For its entire 72-year-history, the Air Force has based its air-superiority concepts on fighter aircraft.

It seems highly likely that the new Penetrating Counter Air system will include fighters, but more than before these fighters might coordinate with drones and air-, space- and ground-based networks, sensors and weapons. 

But if the YF-23 program is any indication, it could take longer than 15 years to invent a new air-superiority system, whatever form it takes. The Air Force in 1971 began studying requirements for a new fighter to succeed the F-15, which itself at the time was still in development, according to Paul Metz, a former Northrop test pilot who flew the YF-23.

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India and Pakistan: Two Nations Always At the Brink of Nuclear War

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 07:00

War Is Boring


The world's most dangerous conflict.

In other words, as the Kashmir dispute continues to fester, inducing periodic terrorist attacks on India and fueling the competition between New Delhi and Islamabad to outpace each other in the variety and size of their nuclear arsenals, the peril to South Asia in particular and the world at large only grows.​

It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.

Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.

(This article by Dilip Hiro originally appeared at War is Boring in 2016.)

When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.

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