Posts filed under ‘Indo-Pacific region’

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Rethinking the MQ-9 Reaper; Drone Attack on Iraqi PM

DEFENSE.

Reaper Madness

 

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at sunset at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, November 20, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

An aerospace analyst at a Washington area think tank has come up with a list of missions to keep the MQ-9 Reaper, a surveillance and attack drone, flying — even though the U.S. Air Force wants to retire the venerable unmanned aircraft.

The Air Force is feeling pressure from two directions. On the one hand, it needs to fund a lot of new aircraft like the B-21 long range strike bomber and the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker, to deal with the rising threat of great power competitors Russia and China.

On the other hand, the Air Force budget is already tight and expected to get tighter. So, to come up with some money to fund expensive modernization programs, Air Force planners consider retiring legacy aircraft they believe cannot survive in a high-end fight, like the General Atomics intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and targeting drone.

But retired Air Force Major General Lawrence Stutzriem, of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, says the Reaper — sought for numerous assignments by U.S. combatant commands like AFRICOM and NORTHCOM, still has a lot it can do. Rather than send its entire 280-Reaper fleet to the boneyard by 2035, the Air Force should upgrade it for a list of new missions like air and missile defense, and communications relays, Stutzriem writes in a paper “Reimagining the MQ-9 Reaper.”

Some of those like maintaining maritime domain awareness in the Arctic, already pose a challenge for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, your 4GWAQR editor writes in an article for the SEAPOWER website.

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Drone Attack on Iraq Leader.

The committee investigating the November 7 attempt to kill Iraq’s prime minister, has released video footage of the incident, but has yet to identify the attackers.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped the attack on his Baghdad home unhurt.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Three people believed to be associated with the attack were reportedly arrested, although details of the arrests and the suspects’ identities have not been disclosed, according to al Jazeera.

National security adviser Qasim al-Araji told a November 29 news conference that the committee has not accused any specific person or entity but called for collaboration among different parties to further the investigation.

The drone attack targeted al-Kadhimi’s house inside the fortified Green Zone and came at a politically sensitive time. A government is in the process of being formed following the parliamentary elections.

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INDUSTRY.

Egyptian Drones.

Two locally produced drones made their debut at the Egypt Defence Expo last week.

The Nut drone — named for the ancient Egyptian goddess of the sky, was co-produced by the Arab Organization for Industrialization and the Military Technical College. It can perform tactical reconnaissance missions during the day and night using electro-optical technology, according to Defense News.

The Nut has a maximum mission payload of 50 kilograms and an endurance of 10 hours.

Also on display was the EJune-30 SW drone. Made by Industrial Complex Engineering Robots in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Military Production, it is 8.9 meters long with a wingspan of 12 meters. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,400 kilograms, a maximum speed of 260 kph, an endurance of 24 hours, and a maximum operating altitude of 7,000 meters.

EDEX 2021 ran from November 29 to December 2 with pavilions from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, the United States and South Korea.

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AeroVironment DoD Contract.

The Puma 3 AE and Wasp AE systems combine hand-launch capabilities with a deep-stall landing for operations in confined areas on land or water. (Image: AeroVironment, Inc.)

Multi-domain robotic systems-maker AeroVironment announced December 1 it received a $4,151,320 firm-fixed-price U.S. Defense Department Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract award to provide Puma 3 AE and Wasp AE small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to an unidentified allied nation. The contract includes initial spares packages, training and support. Delivery is anticipated by September 2022.

December 2, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 19, 2021)

Yellow Sky.

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

Marines with the Light Armored Reconnaissance Company of the 4th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, tend their Light Armored Vehicle (LAV-25) during Exercise Iron Sky 21.2 on Wake Island, November 6, 2021.

Iron Sky demonstrated joint integration and operational mobility with the U.S. Air Force 62nd Airlift Wing and other units. The exercise allowed the Marines to fine-tune expeditionary airfield security operations.

The Marines have been using the amphibious, eight-wheeled reconnaissance and assault vehicle since the 1980s, and now they’re in the market for a replacement – the  Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle.

In the shift from two decades of fighting in the deserts, mountains and towns of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines are returning to their amphibious roots as part of Navy’s plan to create a highly mobile, dispersed force to counter China’s area-denial, anti-access capabilities in the Western Pacific.

The Marine Corps has shed its Abrams battle tanks and most of its heavy artillery for mobile, long range rocket and missile systems that will create a persistent — but mobile — force of small units on key islands and choke points that could knock out enemy ships from a great distance, creating their own anti-access zone. The concept is known as expeditionary advanced base operations or EABO.

Wake Island has a long history in the defense of strategic points in the Pacific. A undermanned Marine Corps defense battalion and a handful of Marine aviators (aided by hundreds of civilian contractors) held off invading Japanese troops from December 8 to December 23, sinking two destroyers and a submarine, downing 21 Japanese planes and inflicting more than 1,000 casualties — including 900 dead — before being overwhelmed. The failed Japanese landing on December 11 marked one of the few times in World War II (on either side) that an amphibious assault was repulsed. That first victory was also the first U.S. tactical success in the war, boosting morale as seen in this movie trailer for Wake Island (1942).

November 19, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 12, 2021)

Making Some History.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sergeant Vernon Young Jr.)

When we first saw a smaller version of this photo, we thought there’s something different about these pilots. When we clicked on the image to enlarge it (which we hope you will do), we saw why it was so unique.

These female fighter pilots assigned to the 36th and 25th Fighter Squadrons were about to fly a historic all-female flight at Osan Air Base, South Korea on October 25, 2021. The benchmark flight was the first time at Osan AB that 10 female Airmen planned, led and flew in a formation together.

Eight of the pilots were A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots and two were F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots.

It’s rare for a squadron to launch a formation of pilots who all happen to be female. Not only were there women flying the A-10s and F-16s, but an all-female weather team briefed the pilots prior to stepping to the aircraft. Female Airmen planned and executed the entire process from radio communication inside the air traffic control tower to the crew chief marshaling the aircraft on the ground. The team effort showcased the ability that women have to lead in every facet from planning to mission execution, according to the Air Force.

On April 28, 1993, when former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin ordered military services to allow women to fly in combat, there was no timetable of how soon the world would see the percentages of female fighter pilots increase.

Today, almost 30 years later, there are only 103 female fighter pilots across the U.S. Air Force 11F (fighter pilot) career field. That means the pilots who flew jointly in that all-female formation sortie at the 51st Fighter Wing, constituted 10 percent of the service’s female fighter jocks. Click here to see the full story.

For more photos of this event, click here.

November 12, 2021 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO October 29, 2021

Ahoy?

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Wargo)

U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant j.g. (junior grade) Robert DiRado competes in the National Commander in Chief Cup polo  tournament in Charleston, South Carolina on October 1, 2021.

Here at 4GWAR, this is not where we expect to see a member of the Coast Guard — on horseback with a polo mallet in hand. An Army officer, maybe. They’ve been playing polo since the 1890a.

The “Sport of Kings,” is believed first to have been played by Iranian and Turkic nomads in Central Asia, with the current form originating in Iran (Persia) and spreading east to India where the British encountered it in colonial days and took it back to England and the rest of western Europe.

In 1896, the U.S. Army took up the game at Fort Riley, Kansas. In addition to improving the riding skills of cavalrymen, polo taught leadership, teamwork and strategy, according to the United States Polo Association website. Polo was introduced at West Point in 1901. By 1914, 17 Army posts were playing polo. In 1928, the U.S. Army team made it to the final of the U.S. Open Polo Championship, and there were Army polo teams across the country, as well as in the Philippines, Hawaii and Panama. The other military branches, Air Force, Marines and Navy soon followed suit.

Lieutenant DiRado, who is the Executive Officer of the Southeast Regional Fisheries Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina, represents the Department of Homeland Security on the Navy team.

Army beat DiRado and his Navy teammates in the final round of the Commander in Chief Cup tournament. Just a week later, however, Di Rado was part of a joint Department of Defense team that defeated a British Armed Forces team. At the Churchill-Roosevelt Cup polo tournament October 9 and 10, in Aiken, South Carolina, the U.S. team dominated, winning 11-8.

October 29, 2021 at 2:29 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Happy Birthday U.S. Navy

 Still Underway after 246 Years.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Megan Alexander) Click on image to enlarge photo.

On this day (October 13) in 1775, the Continental Congress voted for two vessels each to be fitted out and armed with 10 carriage guns, a proportional number of swivel guns, and a crew of 80. Lawmakers directed the pair of ships be  sent out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America.

So like the U.S. Army, which the Continental Congress created on June 14, 1775 — months before the Declaration of Independence — the U.S. Navy is older than the country it serves. A point President Joe Biden noted in his birthday greetings to the Navy.

“The founding of the naval service began before our Nation’s independence, when General George Washington wrote a letter to the Continental Congress, asking for properly equipped ships to prevent enemy vessels from bringing supplies to the British Army. That moment marked a turning point in the American Revolution and paved the way for our Nation’s seafaring military might,” Biden wrote — adding “As the United States rises to face the global challenges that will shape our future, the Navy remains what it always has been-ready to meet the moment. Our active duty and Navy Reserve sailors are not only trained to fight, but equipped to provide humanitarian assistance. From disaster relief in devastated areas to assisting refugees and deploying emergency medical units, the work of our Nation’s sailors is vital to combatting the interconnected challenges of our time. Even through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Navy delivered lifesaving vaccines across oceans to vulnerable communities around the world.”

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The photo above shows an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, lifting off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The Sea Hawk was beginning a vertical resupply-at-sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain and the Royal Australian Navy fleet replenishment vessel HMAS Sirius on Oct. 10, 2021 in the Indian Ocean (two of which can been seen in the background).

In the foreground of the photo are some of the Vinson’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet attack fighters.

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability through alliances and partnerships with nations in the area while serving as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, according to the Navy.

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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 in the photo.

October 13, 2021 at 5:18 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 8, 2021)

Loaded Up and Truckin’

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Antwain Hanks)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the U.S. Air Force 35th Fighter Wing is positioned on the flight line waiting to take off during Exercise Beverly Sunrise 21-08 at Misawa Air Base, Japan on September 22, 2021.

The exercise allowed airmen to test their Agile Combat Employment (ACE) and Multi-Capable Airmen (MCA) skills by expanding the scope of tasks pilots, ground crews, safety, security, medical and other personnel can complete to recover and relaunch aircraft rapidly from a simulated austere location.

October 8, 2021 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 3, 2021)

Master of His Domain.

(U.S. Navy Courtesy Photo) CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE PHOTO.

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Chris Sherman, the port operations tug master for Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, helps the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN-22) into its berth on August 4, 2021.

Connecticut, a Seawolf-class fast attack submarine, assigned to Submarine Force Pacific, is based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, in Washington state.

Boatswain’s Mate and Gunner’s Mate are the oldest, continually serving ratings in the U.S. Navy, Considered the “backbone of the Navy,” boatswains’ mates train, direct, and supervise personnel in ship’s maintenance duties in all activities relating to the deck, boat seamanship, painting, upkeep of ship’s external structure, rigging and deck equipment. Boatswain’s mates duties cover a large spectrum and range widely depending on the capacity and mission of the vessel or shore installation to which they are assigned.

For a sense of what Boats Sherman’s tug looks like, take a look at the photo below. It was taken May 1, 2002 when the then-brand new USS Connecticut departed Submarine Base New London, Connecticut on her first, scheduled deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Apprentice Woody Paschall)

September 3, 2021 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 23, 2021)

Looking for Trouble.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Sophia Simons)

Sailors conduct a foreign object debris (FOD) walk down on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on July 9, 2021. While the procedure is routine on aircraft carriers as well as civilian and military airfields, this is the first time your 4GWAR editor has seen a photo of a night FOD.

According to the Navy, the task is performed each day and night before flight operations to ensure the flight deck is clear of all foreign objects, which could be ingested by jet aircraft, damaging expensive equipment — or place flight deck personnel in danger.

The carrier, Carl Vinson, is currently underway conducting routine maritime operations in the U.S. 3rd Fleet in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

July 22, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 25, 2021)

Peaceful Scene on a Sea of Troubles.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rawad Madanat)

The U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the South China Sea on June 15, 2021 with the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67).

Reagan, part of Task Force 70/Carrier Strike Group 5, conducting maritime security operations, flight operations, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units while in the South China Sea, according to the Navy.

The South China Sea has become one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between China and the United States, according to al Jazeera, with Washington rejecting what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters, which are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

In a show of force against the Chinese claims, U.S. warships have passed through the South China Sea with increasing frequency in recent years, invoking freedom of navigation rights.

June 25, 2021 at 12:36 am Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Navy and Marine Corps Unmanned Vision; Mixed Manned, Unmanned Naval Exercise

DEFENSE.

Navy, Marines’ Unmanned Vision.

The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft, one of several unmanned systems Navy leaders say help extend the reach and capabilities of the fleet. (U.S. AIR FORCE photo by Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr).

The top commanders of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps say the increased deployment of unmanned air and maritime systems will help extend the reach and intelligence capabilities of the Fleet and the Force.

It could also sow uncertainty among peer competitors, like China and Russia, according to SEAPOWER magazine.

The Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday told a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing that in the future, the Navy will field the Fleet in a distributed manner. And that, he said, “will allow us to come at — let’s say China or Russia — at many vectors across many domains.” In other words, the increased number of ships — some with a crew and some being controlled remotely or running autonomously — would force adversaries to spread their resources and be on guard everywhere, all the time.

When the Navy and Marine Corps released their Unmanned Campaign Plan in March, some in Congress said it was light on details. At the June 14 Armed Services hearing, Chairman Adam Smith (D-Washington) asked Gilday and Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger to explain how unmanned systems will help them perform their mission.

With unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), Berger said, the the Marines expect help with intelligence collection, logistics and and command and control, in short, he said the ability to move information laterally within Marine units and back to the Joint Force commander.

The Marines are transitioning to a mixed capability of long-range ship and ground-based unmanned aerial systems (UAS) including the MQ-9 Reaper, (see photo above). “This will significantly expand our ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities and will enable us to better support the Fleet and the joint force operational commander, including anti-submarine warfare.”

Gilday noted that the Navy had recently completed its largest unmanned exercise on the West Coast, with unmanned undersea, surface and air systems operating with manned surface ships. The Navy also had the first successful refueling of an F/A-18 Super Hornet from an MQ-25 drone. The Navy also saw the third voyage of more than 4,000-miles — from the Gulf Coast, through the Panama Canal to California — by an unmanned surface vessel operating autonomously 98 percent of the time.

To read the whole story, click here.

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After Action Report.

Speaking of that big West Coast exercise with both manned and unmanned vessels and aircraft, the Navy has concluded its after-action review, according to the Office of Naval Research.

Led by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21 (IBP21), was held from April 19-26 in San Diego, California.

During IBP21, numerous multi-domain unmanned platforms — including unmanned aerial, surface and underwater vehicles (UAVs, USVs and UUVs) — were put into real-world, “blue-water” environments, working in sync with manned platforms in actual combat drills designed to support Pacific Fleet objectives in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Large-scale exercises such as IBP21 are critical for the Navy and Marine Corps to make the transition to a hybrid manned-unmanned force in the future,” the Chief of Naval Research, Rear Admiral Lorin Selby said. “These demonstrations ensure what works in theory will work in the fleet—in an environment that is messier, dirtier and wetter than a lab. They also allow us to get valuable feedback from the Sailors and Marines themselves,” he added.

The purpose of IBP21 was to explore a variety of questions about how unmanned systems can be incorporated into fleet operations. For example: How can unmanned and manned systems work together effectively in diverse warfighting scenarios? How can you integrate unmanned systems seamlessly into existing platforms? What is the best way to train Sailors and Marines to use such complex, evolving technologies?

So far, according to SEAPOWER, major takeaways from IBP21 include:

Unmanned systems are resilient, enable better beyond-line-of-sight targeting, and improve battlespace awareness and command and control.

They also provide significant advantages in ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) and Targeting and Fires capabilities, without creating additional risks to the mission or warfighters. The result—more effective offensive and defensive postures.

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INDUSTRY

From General Atomics

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. completed initial flight tests of a new brushless generator system in May on a company-owned Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

The tests at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizonna, mark an important milestone towards upgrading the GE-ER fleet with generators that will significantly improve reliability and dramatically reduce platform sustainment costs. The new generator also provides electrical power to support expanding mission scenarios for the UAS.

The new generator performed aircraft ground and flight tests for over 44 hours testing up to maximum electrical power output across the full GE-ER flight envelope and at engine power levels from idle up to maximum rated thrust.

The brushless generator is designed as a drop-in replacement for the current alternator to help make the upgrade seamless for maintainers in the field. The brushless design eliminates scheduled depot service for brush replacement every 300 hours on the current alternator, reducing depot, shipping, and spare inventory costs. The new generator system can provide up to 14 kilowatts of power – more than a 50 percent increase over current system – and provide up to 10 kilowatts for sensors and payloads required for flight in a Multi-Domain Operations environment.

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From Schiebel

Austrian drone manufactuer, Schiebel, says the Finnish Border Guard is once again operating its CAMCOPTER S-100 for icoast guard functions in the Baltic Sea.

The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) service is offered by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
Based at a coast guard station in Hanko, Finland, the CAMCOPTER S-100 is carrying out Coast Guard functions, such as
maritime border surveillance, search and rescue, monitoring and surveillance, ship and port security, vessel traffic monitoring, environmental protection and response, ship casualty assistance — as well as accident and disaster response.

Information collected in the Baltic Sea from the on-board RPAS system is shared with multiple Member States, allowing for a common maritime picture and more comprehensive coordination. The operations will continue until end of July.

Two other CAMCOPTER S-100 operations for EMSA are being carried out in Estonia and Romania for maritime surveillance.

June 24, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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