Posts filed under ‘Aircraft’

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Ukraine Getting U.S. Drones; Russia Wants More from Iran

UKRAINE, RUSSIA DRONE NEEDS

Never in the history of warfare have drones been used as intensively as in Ukraine, where they often play an outsized role in who lives and dies, according to the Associated Press.  Both the Russians and Ukrainians depend heavily on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

But after months of fighting, the drone fleets of both sides are depleted, and they are racing to build or buy the kind of jamming-resistant, advanced drones that could offer a decisive edge, the AP reported July 14.

Ukraine Getting More Kamikaze Drones

The U.S. Defense Department says hundreds of one-way drones will be included in the latest security assistance package for Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s brutal invasion.

The Pentagon announced Friday (July 22, 2022) that an additional $270 million in Security Assistance for Ukraine will include as many as 580 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). It is the sixteenth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine authorized by the Biden Administration since August 2021 — six months before Moscow’s unprovoked multi-front attack.

Back in April, the United States committed to sending 121 Phoenix Ghosts to Ukraine. Pentagon officials have not fully disclosed the capabilities of those drones, which were developed by the U.S. Air Force and produced by Aevex Aerospace, according to the Associated Press. Aevex describes itself as a leader in “full-spectrum airborne intelligence solutions.” The drones have onboard cameras and can be used to attack targets, AP reported.

In April, then-Pentagon press spokesman John Kirby said the Phoenix Ghost had been in development before the February 24 Russian invasion. And in discussions with the Ukrainians about their requirements, “we believed that this particular system would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine.”

While primarily a UAS designed for tactical operations like attacking targets, Kirby said Phoenix Ghost ‘s cameras could be used for reconnaissance. But its principal focus is attack, said Kirby, adding “its purpose is akin to that of the Switchblade … which is basically a one-way drone and attack drone. And that’s essentially what this is designed to do.”

Artist’s rendering of AeroVironment Switchblade 600 loitering missile. (Image courtesy of AeroVironment)

Switchblade’s manufacturer, AeroVironmentc Inc.,, calls the little lethal UAV a loitering missile. Originally weighing less than six pounds, it could be carried in a soldier’s backpack and launched from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, Switchblade sends back color video imagery and GPS coordinates which the operator can view on a hand-held ground controller.

What made Switchblade unique, 4GWAR noted back in 2011, is the ability to transition from a low-flying reconnaissance drone to small bomb with the flick of a switch by the soldier operating the ground controller. It can then be aimed at a nearby — but out of sight — target such as an un-armored vehicle.

Several improvements have been made to Switchblade since then. The larger (50-pounds) Switchblade 600, has greater capabilities for engaging larger, hardened targets with multi-purpose anti-armor ammunition at longer distances than the original Switchblade 300, your 4GWAR editor reported in SEAPOWER.

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Short on Drones, Russia Turns to Iran

Both sides in the war have made ample use of unmanned aircraft, both for missile attacks by armed drones and reconnaissance of enemy troop movements and potential artillery targets. However, many military analysts believe the Russians — who surprised  Western observers with their coordinated use of drones as artillery spotters to target Ukrainian tank and artillery formations in 2014  — may now be running low on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

On July 12, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Russia was seeking hundreds of UAVs, including weapons capable drones from Iran.

“Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July,” Sullivan told a White House briefing, adding “”It’s unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already.”

On July 16, the White House said Russian officials visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice to view weapons-capable drones it is looking to acquire. The White House released the intelligence the same day President Joe Biden met  with leaders of six Arab Gulf countries, plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

The White House also released satellite imagery indicating Russian officials have twice visited Iran in recent weeks for a showcase of weapons-capable drones.

The satellite imagery showed Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones on display at Karshan Airfield on June 8 and July 5, while a Russian delegation transport plane was on the ground, the Associated Press reported.

Shahed 129 UAV seen during the Eqtedar 40 defense exhibition in Tehran. (Photo Fars Media Corporation via wikipedia)

Sullivan said in a statement that the administration has “information that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred UAVs.

“We assess an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-capable UAVs. We are releasing these images captured in June showing Iranian UAVs that the Russian government delegation saw that day,” Sullivan added. “This suggests ongoing Russian interest in acquiring Iranian attack-capable UAVs.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected reports on exporting Iranian drones to Russia, calling them “baseless.”

The U.S. intelligence assessment was first reported by CNN.

Russia had previously turned to China for help in supporting its war in Ukraine, U.S. officials disclosed in March, according to the CNN report. As of late May, the US had seen no evidence that China had provided any military or economic support to Russia for the invasion, Sullivan told reporters at the time.

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China’s DJI Halts Drone Business in Russia and Ukraine.

China’s DJI, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, announced in late April that is was suspending all business activities in both Russia and Ukraine.

Since the start of the war, Ukraine has urged the company to take steps to stop its drones being used by Russia.

The Chinese firm said the decision was not a statement about any country, and its drones are not for military use, the BBC reported.

DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions. Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine. We are engaging with customers, partners and other stakeholders regarding the temporary suspension of business operations in the affected territories. — DJI Statement

China has sought to remain neutral on the conflict, calling for a peaceful solution, but it has yet to condemn the Russian invasion.

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IN OTHER DRONE NEWS …

Valkyrie Drones Complete Tests for Skyborg Program.

A pair of XQ-58 Valkyrie drones have completed a series of tests for the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg program, to team unmanned and manned aircraft through an artificial intelligence-enabled autonomous system allowing fighter pilots and bomber crews to control unmanned wingmen.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

Defense contractor Kratos, which manufactures the Valkyrie, announced the successful tests at the Farnborough International Air Show in Britain July 19, but offered no details on what those tests demonstrated or when they occurred, Air Force Magazine reports.

The XQ-58, meanwhile, has conducted a limited number of flight tests showcasing some of its capabilities including releasing another drone in flight and carrying technology allowing an F-35 Lightening II and an F-22 Raptor to share data in-flight.

It was the first public announcement of the Valkyrie flying for the Skyborg program. The drone was first developed as part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio and flew its first several tests before Kratos was selected in late 2020 as one of three companies to conduct Skyborg flights, according to the magazine.

“This is a program about autonomy,” Jeffrey Herro, a senior vice president in Kratos’ unmanned systems division, told Air Force Magazine in an interview at Farnborough. “Our aircraft was chosen to be the testbed for these autonomy tests. And so we’ve been flying various payloads in support of the government’s activities on Skyborg.”

July 26, 2022 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 15, 2022)

BIG NEW DRONE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.) Click on the photo to enlarge image.

Team members secure batteries to the LIFT Hexa aircraft’s motors before its first flight at Duke auxiliary airfield near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the U.S. Air Force announced July 14, 2022.

The LIFT Hexa, an electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL, completed its flight test via remote control. The aircraft, which used 18 motors and propellers, flew for approximately 10 minutes and reached a height of about 50 feet.

The test was an important first step toward the incorporating the Hexa into operations at a controlled military airfield.  Duke Field is located North of Eglin’s main base. This flight was completed by Hexa 09, one of two aircraft stationed at Duke Field. Hexa 05 was used for the first test flight at Eglin in April.

The 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s rotary wing developmental test experts, has partnered with AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Air Force and its Agility Prime program, to advance eVTOL test and experimentation.

July 14, 2022 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 24, 2022)

21st CENTURY GUNSLINGER.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal David Intriago) Click on photo to enlarge image.

Corporal Monica Pomales, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773’s Detachment A, conducts live fire shooting drills in a UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter during exercise Gunslinger 22 at Smoky Hill Range, Kansas on June 17, 2022.

Gunslinger 22 is a joint Marine Corps exercise with the Kansas Air National Guard designed to increase aircraft control and training for potential real world contingencies. Pomales’ Venom was accompanied by an AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and both provided close air support and deep air support to the Ground Combat Element at Smoky Hill Range.

HMLA 773 Detachment A, based in New Orleans, is part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey — a 2009 amalgamation of three military facilities in the Garden State: McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, once the home of the Navy’s rigid airships and non-rigid blimps.

To see more photos of this helicopter live fire drill, click here.

June 24, 2022 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Navy Unmanned/Autonomy Competition; France Wants Switchblade

DEFENSE.

Navy Readying Unmanned/Autonomy Competition

The U.S. Navy plans an industry competition for a key contract related to its autonomy software development efforts,the  Breaking Defense reports, adding that the anticipated contract will secure a vital iole for the winning company in many of the Navy’s upcoming unmanned vehicle programs.

The Navy is developing “a myriad of unmanned vessels and needs to streamline the process of making sure each drone will be capable of working in conjunction with one another. To do this, the unmanned systems office, known internally in the Navy as PMS 406, has been spearheading several projects that collectively aim to unify different software delivered by any given company,” according to Breaking Defense’s Justin Katz.

The Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vessel launches from Naval Base Point Loma for the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21) on April 20, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The contract has been dubbed the Autonomy Baseline Manager, and the service’s unmanned systems program office expects to publish a solicitation for the role in the coming months, according to Navy spokesman Alan Baribeau. A five year-contract for the selected company is scheduled to be awarded in summer 2023.

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Large U.S. Navy Drones.

The U.S. Navy’s last deployed RQ-4A Global Hawk Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D) unmanned aerial vehicle, has returned from the Middle East, culminating a 13-year span of operations that began as a six-month experiment.

BAMS-D, which has been operational since 2009, (NORTHROP GRUMMAN photo)

According to Naval Air Systems Command, the RQ-4A returned to its home base, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, from the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility on June 17.

The Navy had deployed the RQ-4A to Southwest Asia since 2009 as a component of the BAMS-D program, SEAPOWER magazine reported. Five Block 10 RQ-4As were acquired from the U.S. Air Force and were based at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and operated in sequence over the years by detachments of Patrol Reconnaissance Wings 5, 2, and 11. The detachment kept at least one RQ-4A in the rotation to a base in the Persian Gulf region. One was lost in a mishap in Maryland in June 2012. Another was shot down June 19, 2019, in an unprovoked attack in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

BAMS-D provided more than 50% of maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in theater accruing over 42,500 flight hours in 2,069 overseas missions, the Navy said.

Meanwhile, the Navy has ordered two more MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles from Northrop Grumman.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $248.2 million contract modification to procure two MQ-4Cs as an addition to Lot 5 low-rate initial production. The contract modification follows two other contracts awarded in June to Northrop Grumman for the Triton program, SEAPOWER reported.

The MQ-4C’s IFC-4 is designed to bring an enhanced multi-mission sensor capability as part of the Navy’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting transition plan. The Triton in the IFC-4 configuration is designed to complement the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and eventually will enable the Navy to retire its EP-3E Orion electronic reconnaissance aircraft. The initial operational capability for the Triton will be declared in 2023 when IFC-4-configured Tritons are deployed in enough quantity to field one complete orbit.

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Tax-Free Pay for Drone Operators?

U.S. service members who fly remotely piloted aircraft or operate their surveillance and targeting sensors don’t qualify for untaxed income because they largely wage war from installations in the continental U.S. rather than in combat zones like Iraq or Somalia.

But Senators Jacky Rosen of Nevada,  Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative Steven Horsford, also of Nevada want to fix that, according to Military Times. Legislation proposed by the trio would give military drone crews the same tax-free combat pay as deployed troops.

Drone crews would be eligible for untaxed income if they fly missions anywhere within a combat zone approved by the Pentagon, from the Sinai Peninsula to Kosovo to the Arabian Peninsula, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Their annual salaries, and how much they are taxed, vary by state and federal tax brackets, grade and training.

On top of their monthly income and housing and subsistence allowances, these troops already receive an untaxed flight stipend that is separate from combat pay. That monthly combat stipend would become available, tax-free, to the RPA community if the legislation is signed into law.

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INDUSTRY.

General Atomics’ Maritime Drone Tests for RIMPAC

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. completed a series of flight tests of an MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aircraft system equipped with electronic intelligence, communications intelligence and Link 16 payloads in preparation for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise.

GA-ASI_MQ-9B_SeaGuardian, (General Atomics photo)

The sensors were integrated onto GA-ASI’s maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aircraft System, which will be featured at RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise involving more than 40 ships and 150 aircraft from 27 partner nations. The 2022 exercise will take place from late June to early August in Hawaii and Southern California.

The Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) payload on SeaGuardian is supplied by Sierra Nevada Corporation and the Communications Intelligence (COMINT) payload is made by L3Harris Technologies.

The MQ-9B line of unmanned air systems has advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability, featuring a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities, and a High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras.

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France Wants U.S. Kamikaze Drone.

The French Army has started the process of quickly procuring American-made loitering munitions as part of a longer-term effort to field remotely operated weapon systems, Defense News reported from Paris.

The service is looking to add AeroVironment’s Switchblade to its inventory within the next six months, Colonel Arnaud Goujon, the Army’s chief of plans, told reporters at the Eurosatory defense expo, which was held last week outside Paris.

Launching a Switchblade UAV. (Photo courtesy of AeroVironment )

In a Tuesday email to Defense News, the French Armed Forces Ministry confirmed the country is in the process of launching a Foreign Military Sales request “for the acquisition of Switchblade remote-operated ammunition.”

The Pentagon in April announced plans to supply the Switchblade munition to Ukraine as part of military aid provided to the European country since Russian invaded it in late February.

June 23, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

PLANET A: Pentagon Seeks $3 Billion to Battle Climate Change; Marine Corps Base First to Reach Net Zero

PLANET A, because there’s no Plan B or Planet B

Climate change is reshaping the geostrategic, operational, and tactical environments with significant implications for U.S. national security and defense. Increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks and creating new security challenges for U.S. interests.

— U.S. Defense Department Pentagon’s Climate 2021Risk Analysis

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RISKS and CHALLENGES

2023 Defense Budget

For the first time, the U.S. Defense Department budget request is committing $3.1 billion exclusively to dealing with climate change, including $2 billion for installation resiliency and adaptation and $247 million for operational energy and buying power.

“We have to be resilient to cyber threats, we have to be resilient to climate change,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told a March 28 livestreamed Pentagon press briefing on the budget request, SEAPOWER magazine reported at the time.

The $813 billion defense budget request included $773 billion for the Defense Department and more than $40 billion for defense-related activities at other agencies. Of the three vital national interests cited in the budget request, the last one is Building Enduring Advantages, which includes “modernizing the Joint Force to make its supporting systems more resilient and agile in the face of threats ranging from competitors to the effects of climate change.”

Investments in the $3.1 billion climate crisis request include: $2 billion for Installation Resiliency and Adaptation; $247 million for Operational Energy and Buying Power; $807 million for Science and Technology, and $28 million Contingency Preparedness.

There have been numerous examples in recent years of the need for installation resiliency and contingency preparedness due to severe weather, sea rise, wildfires and other environmental incidents.

 

Flooding Missouri River waters covered a large portion of the airfield at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska in March 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sergeant Rachelle Blake)

Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska suffered disastrous flooding in 2019 that damaged a third of the base. Hurricane Michael caused billions of dollars in damage at Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base in 2018. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in coastal North Carolina sustained billions more in damages to housing, information technology (IT) and sewage systems from another 2018 storm, Hurricane Florence.  Military bases like Guam in the Pacific are vulnerable to rising seas due to melting Arctic sea ice.

A Defense Department-funded report released in April indicated that increased natural disasters, high levels of rainfall and coastal erosion pose serious problems for the largest Marine Corps training facility on the East Coast, the iconic Parris Island recruit training depot in South Carolina, Military.com reported in late May. The growing effects of climate change has the Marines considering moving some of its bases, including Parris Island, to other locations.

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ALTERNATIVE FUEL and ENERGY

Marine Base, First to Hit Net Zero

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia is the first Defense Department installation to achieve Net Zero status.

Net Zero is defined as the production of as much electricity from renewable “green” energy sources as a facility consumes from its utility provider and is measured over the course of the year.

On average, MCLB Albany’s consumption peak is 4-6 megawatts of electricity in winter and 8-11 megawatts in the summer. The power consumption difference by season is why NET Zero is measured over the course of a year.

The base has two landfill gas generators that produce 4 megawatts. The biomass steam turbine generator located at the nearby Procter & Gamble plant generates 8.5 megawatts of energy with the steam generated from burning biomass.

The base also has 27 diesel backup generators that generate a total of 7 MW of power.

(right) listen at ceremony recognizing Marine Corps Logistics Albany, Georgia as the first Defense Department installation to meet the “Net Zero” energy-efficiency milestone. (Photo by Jonathan Wright, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany)

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment Meredith Berger and Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger (no relation) participated in a ceremony celebrating the accomplishment on May 24, 2022.

“From the shores of Tripoli, to the seawall at Inchon, Marines have shown leadership and taken decisive action in the face of every challenge,” Assistant Secretary Berger said. “It is only natural then that the Marines should lead the way here in Albany on energy resilience.”

“Warfighting is always first and most important,” said General Berger. “The more resilient a base is, which is where we project our power from, the better warfighting organization we’re going to be and the more lethal we’re going to be.”

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Pentagon’s fuel prices rose $3Billion in FY22

A senior Defense Department official says spiking fuel prices will cost the Pentagon $3 billion more than expected in fiscal 2022, and that will force the Pentagon to ask Congress for more money.

At an April 27 House Budget Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s $773 billion Fiscal Year 2023 defense budget request, Comptroller Mike McCord said fuel will cost $1.8 billion more than expected for the rest of the year.

Congress added $1.5 billion for increased fuel costs in the budget signed into law in March.

“Fuel is our most volatile and easily recognizable price increase when prices changed,” McCord told the Budget panel, Defense News reported. “Largely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we estimate a bill of $1.8 billion for the rest of this year, so over $3 billion across the course of this fiscal year,” he said.

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ONR Global and Royal Air Force Conduct First Synthetic-Fueled Drone Flight

In February 2022, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global and Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) conducted the first-ever drone flight using synthetic kerosene.

Performed in partnership with British company C3 Biotechnologies Ltd, the initial trial created 15 liters (four gallons) of synthetic fuel in laboratory conditions. This allowed the four-meter, fixed-wing drone to complete a 20-minute test flight in South West England, providing valuable data indicating the fuel performs consistently to a high standard.

“The U.S. Navy is committed to finding innovative solutions to operational challenges, and the ability to manufacture this fuel without large infrastructure requirements would be groundbreaking for deployed forces,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Lorin C. Selby.

This technology provides a viable solution today and leverages the nascent bio-manufacturing industry to create sustainable, secure and environmentally friendly products resilient to commercial market forces and geopolitical uncertainty, according to the Naval Research Office.

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PLANET A is a new, occasional posting on climate change and the global impact it is having national security and the U.S. military. The name is derived from activists who warn that climate change is an urgent threat to the world because there is no Plan B to fix it — nor a Planet B to escape to.

June 12, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: D-Day Remembered and Other Greatest Generation Notes

D-DAY, PLUS 78 YEARS.

One of the monuments to U.S. D-Day Landings in Normandy, France. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Akeel Austin)

D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, is the day when more than 160,000 Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied France as part of the biggest air, land and sea invasion ever executed. It ended with heavy casualties — more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in those first 24 hours.

Still, D-Day is largely considered the successful beginning of the end of Hitler’s tyrannical regime and the war in Europe.

A bird’s-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons and Allied troops landing in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo By: U.S. Maritime Commission)

In the past we’ve mostly written about the airborne landings the night before D-Day, largely because 37 years ago your 4GWAR editor once interviewed a Catholic priest who jumped into the dark as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne Division. But this year, we thought we’d try something different.

Here’s a D-Day quiz that Defense Department had on their website for the 78th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy. See how you do.

And here’s a 2016 article the Defense Department rolled out again this year: Five Things You May Not Know About D-Day.

And let’s not forget the Boys of ’44.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Vincent Levelev)

These are some of the World War II Veterans, and representatives of those who could not be in attendance, receiving a challenge coin at the Eternal Heroes Monument in Normandy, France, on June 2, 2022. World War II Veterans and representatives of the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division’s (Air Assault) came to honor fallen Paratroopers who liberated Ravenoville in June of 1944.

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BATTLE OF MIDWAY REMEMBERED.

Another decisive battle in World War II also took place in June — on the other side of the world against a different enemy.

June 4, marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, considered by most military historians to be the turning point in the Pacific during the Second World War.

Torpedo bombers on the flight deck of the US Enterprise CV-6 just before the Battle of Midway (Navy archival photo)

In 1942, a large Japanese fleet, led by four heavy aircraft carriers, planned to destroy the three U.S. carriers they missed during the Pearl Harbor attack six months earlier. But by early June, Naval Intelligence had cracked the Imperial Japanese Navy code and Admiral Chester Nimitz, the head of the Navy’s Pacific forces, knew where the enemy was and what their plans were.

After three days of battle, where the opposing surface ships never saw each other, Japan lost all four of its heavy carriers as well as hundreds of planes and thousands of sailors and pilots. U.S. losses were limited to one carrier – the USS Yorktown (CV-5) – a destroyer, the USS Hammann (DD-412), less than 150 planes and 305 men. After Midway, Japan was never able to launch a large naval offensive again.

To commemorate that historic victory, two EA-18G Growlers — electronic warfare aircraft — conducted a fly-by during a ceremony being held aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111). In the photo below one can see the Growlers approaching as the ship’s crew salute the ensign (flag) during the playing of the National Anthem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor Crenshaw)

The Spruance is named for Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, considered the victor at Midway. He commanded Task Force 16, which included the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6). Once within range of the advancing Japanese fleet, he capitalized on the element of surprise to launch the decisive attack near Midway.

Spruance is part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in the Western Pacific. The June 4 ceremony was held less than 1,000 miles from the 1942 battle zone.

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GOLD MEDAL FOR MERRILL’S MARAUDERS.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded May 25 in a virtual Capitol Hill ceremony to a famed World War II Army special operations outfit, the 5307th Composite Unit, better known as Merrill’s Marauders.

Merrill’s Marauders crossing a jungle river with pack animals.
(U.S. Army photo)

Created as a long range, light infantry unit trained in jungle warfare, the 5307th, code-named Galahad, was tasked with penetrating deep into Japanese-held territory to disrupt communications, cut supply lines and capture an airfield in Burma.

The volunteer unit was formed in 1943, with more than 900 jungle-trained officers and men from Caribbean Defense Command, 600 Army veterans of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign, a few hundred more from Southwest Pacific Command, veterans of the New Guinea and Bougainville campaigns, and another 900 jungle-trained troops from Army Ground Forces stateside. Fourteen Japanese-American (Nisei) Military Intelligence Service translators were also assigned to the unit. In just five months in 1944, the Marauders fought often larger Japanese forces in 32 engagements including five major battles across some of the toughest conditions of the war: the disease-infested jungles of Burma and the rugged foothills of the Himalayas.

“Merrill’s Marauders stand among the great heroes of our history. Nearly 80 years later, Americans remain in awe of their courage, valor and patriotism – willing to go where no others would dare,” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said during the gold medal ceremony.

“On behalf of the United States Congress and all Americans, I’m honored to present this Congressional Gold Medal to Merrill’s Marauders in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service. May this medal serve as an expression of our nation’s deepest gratitude and respect. And may its place in the Smithsonian remind future generations of the Marauders’ fight for freedom and democracy,” Pelosi said.

She also cited lawmakers who worked for years to get the congressional recognition for the Marauders — the late Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Congressman Sanford Bishop Jr. of Georgia and former Congressman Peter King of New York.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, then-Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China. In their final mission, the Marauders were ordered to push enemy forces out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma, according to Military Times

Brigadier General Frank Merrill, commander of “Merrill’s Marauders,” poses between two of the 14 Japanese-American interpreters assigned to the unit, Tech Sergeants Herbert Miyasaki and Akiji Yoshimura in Burma on May 1, 1944. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Weakened by disease, malnourishment and enemy attacks during their march through Burma, the Marauders, effective force dwindled from nearly 3,000 men to 1,500. Even with reduced numbers of the 5307th was still able to take the airfield on May 17, 1944. But the nearby town of Myitkyina proved to have a larger Japanese garrison than intelligence reports indicated. It was only with Chinese reinforcements that the town fell to Allied troops on August 3. After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat.

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia. Considered a forerunner of today’s Special Operations troops, the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment’s distinctive unit insignia honors the legacy of the Marauders by replicating the design of their shoulder shoulder sleeve insignia.

The colors used to identify the Marauders can be found on every tan beret worn by a Ranger, said Colonel J.D. “Jim” Keirsey, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The Rangers’ crest displays a star, sun and lightning bolt to symbolize the “behind enemy lines, deep-strike character” of their predecessors, he said, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

June 6, 2022 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: SOCOM Seeks Small Counter-Drone Tool; Russia Says it Killed Drone with Laser; Marines Want More Reapers

DEFENSE: Updates with Russian Drone-Killer Laser Claim.

Special Ops Counter Drone Needs.

U.S. special operations forces are looking for a small device that can neutralize drone threats by land, air and sea.

Special Operations Command’s program office for counterproliferation has been focusing on finding a smaller technology package that can jam radio frequencies, to thwart roadside bombs — and counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) attacks, Defense News, reports from the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida earlier this week (May 16-19).

Early counter-drone technology experimentation 2018. Marines test Drone Killer Technology during Urban Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX-18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Rhita Daniel)

While the current focus is on aerial threats, the counter-UAS program office is looking for ground and maritime counter-drone options as well.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, Marine Raiders among other elite units, including the acquisition and development of specialized platforms and technologies.

The counter-UAS office is looking for next-generation, multimission electronic countermeasure gear that is both portable and operable from fixed expeditionary sites. The Marine Corps and SOCOM have an existing system called Modi, made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and used by the Army and Marines. The current dismounted system weighs 40 pounds.

The next-gen version needs to hit unmanned threat across the land, sea and air domains — and be more portable. The office may select a system by fiscal 2024 and begin production in fiscal 2025.

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Russia Claims It’s Using Counter-Drone Laser 

Russia says it is using a new generation of powerful lasers in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow’s secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms.

Little is known about the new laser. Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned one in 2018 called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow May 18 that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) above Earth, Reuters reported.

He said there were already more powerful systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on May 17 which he said had burned up a drone 5 km (31 miles) away within five seconds.

“If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,” Borisov told Russian state television, according to Reuters.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira.”

U.S. defense authorities and military experts say Moscow’s claim about the new laser has not been substantiated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has mocked the claim, according to the Washington Post.

A retired Australian army major general, Mick Ryan, who has been studying the Russian invasion, told the Post that weapons like Zadira could take down reconnaissance drones or Ukrainian artillery. It could also be used to blind Ukrainian soldiers, a tactic that is banned under international convention, he added.

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Marines Want More Reapers.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps’ commandant says the service will expand its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones to meet growing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs, your 4GWAR editor wrote for the SEAPOWER magazine website.

“We’re going to move from three squadrons right now to perhaps double that,” General David Berger told an audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition. “And the reason why is the need for organic ISR.”

The Marine Corps’ first MQ-9A completed 10,000 flight hours in support of Marine Corps Forces, Central Command operations on March 31, 2021. (Photo U.S. Marine Corps).

The MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft can stay aloft for more than 26 hours, attain air speeds of 220 knots and can operate to an altitude of 45,000 feet. Manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., the Reaper has a 3,850-pound payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar.

Berger said that ISR needs were increasingly critical for Marine Corps units, large and small. “So absolutely, we’re going to expand in Group 5, large-scale, big-wing, medium-altitude, long-endurance, uncrewed aircraft. That’s so we can have, for the naval force, persistent organic ISR access from the MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] level on down to the squad level,” he said.

May 19, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 6, 2022)

STINGER STUDY.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyler Thompson)

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan Pennington, right, explains the functions of the FIM-92 Stinger missile system to Norwegian Army Sergeant Silje Skarsbakk during a bilateral training event in Setermoen, Norway on April 25, 2022.

The FIM-92 Stinger missile is a shoulder-fired MANPAD (man-portable air-defense system) that specializes in taking out helicopters. Stingers have been around since the 1980s. They were originally developed by General Dynamics and are now made by Raytheon Missile Systems. The Stinger can also target low-flying airplanes and drones.

Pennington is assigned to the the Aviation Combat Element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). MEUs are expeditionary quick reaction forces, deployed and ready for  immediate response to a crisis.

The 22nd MEU, embarked aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group,  participated in a bilateral training event with the Norway’s Armed Forces in April.

The United States has sent more than 1,400 Stingers to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. . The Ukrainian military says it has shot down nearly 160 Russian aircraft, including 90 helicopters in that time. Unfortunately, the Defense Department, which is developing an updated anti-aircraft missile, hasn’t purchased a Stinger in about 18 years, say Raytheon officials. Some of components are no longer commercially available, and the company will have to redesign some of the missile’s electronics, Breaking Defense reported April 26.

May 5, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: 80 Years Ago, Doolittle Raiders Bombed Japan

Target Japan.

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942 . (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.)

At 1:15 p.m. (local time) Saturday, April 18, 1942 — about 600 miles east of  Japan — 16 U.S. Army Air Force twin-engine, B-25 Mitchell medium bombers began taking off from the wet, windy, rolling deck of America’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet. Their destination: The industrial cities of Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka and Japan’s capital, Tokyo. Their mission, a largely symbolic act of revenge for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii four months earlier, and to shake Japanese confidence in their military invincibility and the security of their islands from attack by a distant foe.

The “joint Army-Navy bombing project” was to bomb Japanese industrial centers, to inflict both “material and psychological” damage upon the enemy. Planners hoped that the former would include the destruction of specific targets “with ensuing confusion and retardation of production.” Those who planned the attacks on the Japanese homeland hoped to induce the enemy to recall “combat equipment from other theaters for home defense,” and incite a “fear complex in Japan.” Additionally, it was hoped that the prosecution of the raid would improve the United States’ relationships with its allies and receive a “favorable reaction [on the part] of the American people,” according to documents held by U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

U.S. Army Air Force bombers crowd the flight deck of the USS Hornet. The B-25 was picked for the Doolittle Raid because it was the only aircraft available with the required range, bomb capacity and short takeoff distance. The B-25Bs and volunteer crews came from the 17th Bombardment Group, Pendleton Field, Oregon. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The odds seemed to be against the daring operation. It was the first combat mission for the both the B-25 bombers and the carrier that transported them. The pilots had been intensely training for a little more than a month — mostly on how to take off from an aircraft carrier with a large land-based plane never designed for that kind of performance.The Navy Task Force escorting the Hornet, was spotted by Japanese surveillance boats more than 600 miles from Japan. The decision was made to launch the Army bombers even though they were 200 miles farther from Japan than planned. Extra gasoline was loaded on the planes which were stripped of excess equipment — including their machine guns. While the B-25s would make it to Japan, whether they would have enough fuel to land safely at airfields in China was unknown.

Doolittle on his Curtiss R3C-2 Racer, the plane in which he won the 1925 Schneider Trophy Race (NASA photo)

Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, 45, — who planned the operation, trained the crews to take off from an aircraft carrier, and then flew the lead bomber in the risky all-volunteer mission — had no combat experience. He was, however, one of the best pilots in the world. In the 1920s and ’30s, he made early coast-to-coast flights, record-breaking speed flights, won many flying races and pioneered the use of “blind flying”, relying  on flight instruments alone. That gutsy experiment won him the Harmon Trophy and made all-weather airline operations practical. Doolittle also earned the first doctorate in aeronautics issued in the United States from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1925.

The planes did make it to Japan and mostly hit their targets (one bomber dumped its load of explosives in the sea to evade pursuing Japanese fighters). All the bombers made it out of Japanese airspace. One, very low on fuel landed in the Soviet Union, which was not at war with Japan, and the crew was interned for 13 months before the Soviets let them “escape” to Iran/Persia. The other 15 planes all crashed in China or into offshore waters when they ran out of fuel. Three of the U.S. airmen died in crashes. Eight were captured by the Japanese. All were tried as war criminals by a military court because civilians were killed in the raid including some children in an elementary school that was mistakenly strafed. Three of the POWs were executed. Another died of starvation and abuse in prison. The remaining four managed to survive harsh conditions and were liberated in 1945.

Furious about being caught off guard by the Americans, the Japanese Army unleashed its rage on the region where Doolittle and his men evaded capture with the aid of local Chinese. The Nationalist Chinese government said the Japanese killed more than 250,000 men, women and children, leveled villages leaving thousands destitute and burned crops leaving thousands more to starve.

Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle (left front) and Captain Marc Mitscher, commanding officer of USS Hornet, pose with a 500-pound bomb and Army aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet’s flight deck prior to the raid. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The remaining 64 airmen were able to make it to unoccupied China, with the help of local villagers and missionaries. Doolittle, who thought he was going to be court-martialed for losing all of his planes, was instead awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt and promoted to brigadier general. The raid was a major morale booster for the United States and prompted Japanese leaders to move up their planned attack on Midway to June, which ended in disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy and became the turning point of the Pacific War. All the raiders became national heroes, forever known as the Doolittle Raiders.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

 

April 18, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: 100 Years of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

Milestone for Flatops.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

This month marks the 100th anniversary of aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.

On March 20, 1922, following a two-year conversion at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the former USS Jupiter (a coal transport ship) was recommissioned as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1).

The ship was named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aircraft pioneer and engineer, CV 1 started as an experimental platform but quickly was shown to be an invaluable weapons system that changed how the US Navy fought at sea.

Langley (CV-1) at anchor with an Aeromarine 39-B airplane landing on her flight deck, circa 1922. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph. Catalog #: NH 63545.)

By the end of its first year as an aircraft carrier, USS Langley had been the site for numerous historic events: the first piloted plane launch from an aircraft carrier, the first landing in an Aeromarine, airplane and the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier’s deck.

“For 100 years aircraft carriers have been the most survivable and versatile airfields in the world,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday said during a Navy League centennial celebration Monday (March 21) in Norfolk, Navy Times reported. “Perhaps no single military platform distinguishes what our nation is … and what it stands for … more than the aircraft carrier.”

In the 100 years since — from CV 1 to the newest nuclear-power carrier CVN 78 — aircraft carriers have been the Navy’s preeminent power projection platform and have served the nation’s interest in times of war and peace.

“The advent of the aircraft carrier and the commissioning of the first aircraft carrier 100 years ago really started our Navy and our nation on a path of having the most formidable, mobile, survivable sea bases and aviation platforms in the world,” said Rear Admiral John Meier,  commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, which provides operationally ready air squadrons and aircraft carriers to the fleet.

Today, the Navy currently has eleven commissioned aircraft carriers in its arsenal.

Meier noted the carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is in the Mediterranean, “demonstrating our resolve and our partnership with our NATO allies, as we watch the horror unfolding of Russian aggression into Ukraine.”

Newport News Shipbuilding, a unit of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the world’s only maker of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The most recently completed carrier — USS Gerald R. Ford — is scheduled to make its first overseas deployment sometime later this year.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck, March 22, 2022. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting flight deck certification and air wing carrier qualifications as part of the ship’s preparation for operational deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Melvin)

Ford-class carriers are twice as long and weigh eight times as much as their 1922 counterpart, yet they are twice as fast and carry nearly three times as many aircraft. The nation’s newest most advanced aircraft carrier, CVN 78, will be in service until at least 2070. All U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers operating in the Navy fleet today were built at Newport News Shipbuilding. USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was first in 1961, serving the nation more than 50 years, before being decommissioned in 2017, according to SEAPOWER.

Three other Ford-class aircraft carriers are currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding. They include John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80) and Doris Miller (CVN 81). In addition, Newport News Shipbuilding is conducting mid-life refueling complex overhauls on two Nimitz-class aircraft carriers: USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). These overhauls will extend the service life for each platform by another 25 years.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

March 25, 2022 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

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