Weapon Systems

U.S. Special Operations Command to Use Precision-Strike Surveillance Aircraft

The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is planning to offer war commanders an armed surveillance aircraft option to support ground troops. The “armed overwatch” plane will come equipped with laser-guided rockets and Hellfire missiles.

Fewer ground troops will need to be sent into the enemy fire if an armed surveillance plane can locate and attack enemy fighters. Such an “armed overwatch” aircraft can act as an intelligence node capable of sending troop movements data and targeting information. Fighters often hide in buildings, requiring precision strikes. Air support in counterinsurgency combat can offer precision weapons based on advanced military technology such as a laser rangefinder.

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Meet the Future Unmanned Force: Skybord and Valkyrie

Two new autonomous aircraft concepts that promise to redefine the Air Force’s unmanned fleet are moving forward.

The latest, Skyborg, is an autonomous drone prototyping program underway at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Researchers hope to get the aircraft—expected to be cheaper than other platforms and easily replaceable—combat-ready by the end of 2023.

Air Force Acquisition Executive Will Roper revealed the program, which launched in October, at a conference in Washington last month. Skyborg must be able to autonomously take off and land, fly in bad weather, and avoid other aircraft, terrain, and obstacles, the Air Force said.

Although the Air Force hasn’t decided what kind of aircraft Skyborg should be, it released an artist’s concept of an oblong, winged vehicle with three wheels last month.

The “modular, fighter-like aircraft” serves as a springboard for more complex artificial intelligence work, according to a March 15 request for information.

“Skyborg is a vessel for AI technologies that could range from rather simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace, to the introduction of more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks of the mission,” Matt Duquette, an engineer in AFRL’s aerospace systems branch, said in a press release last month.

An experimentation campaign for autonomous airborne systems is in the works for fiscal 2019 and 2020, the RFI said. The Air Force did not offer more details about the campaign by press time, nor did it answer whether Skyborg is related to another AFRL endeavor launched last year that sought to develop an autonomous fighter jet by the end of 2019.

A similar program, Kratos’ XQ-58A Valkyrie, completed its first flight test March 5. The 30-foot-long, experimental “wingman” aircraft will fly five tests in six months to vet system functionality, aerodynamics, and launch and recovery systems, according to the Air Force.

RMQSI WeaponSystems

Aiming The Army’s Thousand-Mile Missiles

The Army wants new long-range missiles that can shoot a thousand miles. But first it has to figure out how to use them. That requires training a new cadre of Army targeteers to work more closely with the other services than ever before. Why? Because even if the Army can build the new superweapons, it’ll be firing blind unless it is hooked up with the other services’ satellites, planes, and drones to spot targets. The smartest smart weapon is pretty dumb if you don’t know what to shoot at.

What’s more, long-range firepower requires not only long-range sensors to spot targets, but an in-depth planning process that starts long before the first shot is fired. That’s something the other services have done for years for airstrikes, but the Army hasn’t had to. So the service has created an Army Multi-Domain Targeting Center to train a new cadre of joint-certified targeteers.

It’s complex. As the military’s joint Combatant Commands put together their contingency plans, they need to analyze the threat; figure out what parts of the potential enemy force would be priority targets; allocate scarce assets to look for them; and determine the best weapons to neutralize specific targets in specific scenarios. That might mean the new Army missiles, or it could be Air Force smart bombs, Navy Tomahawks launched from ships and submarines, cyber attacks, electronic jamming, or any number of options. That way, when and if a war starts – the hope, of course, is to deter one from ever starting – there’s a playbook of targets and how to hit them already at hand.

Historically, however, the Army simply hasn’t had to do this, because it hasn’t had long-range weapons it had to find targets for. Except for the Pershing II nuclear missile in the 1980s – decommissioned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) – its longest-range weapon has been the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), with a reach of about 188 miles.

For a detailed primer on the joint targeting process, see the Joint Targeting School Student Guide, 1 March 2017.

The student guide serves as a bridge between current operational-level doctrine and tactical-level employment at the joint force level.  It is intended to inform doctrine writers, educators, and trainers about the joint targeting process and serve as a supplement to existing joint or Service doctrine.

Other sources of joint targeting doctrine information include:

Joint Publication 3-60, Joint Targeting, 31 January 2013

Joint Publication 3-09, Joint Fire Support, 12 December 2014

NATO Standard AJP-3.9, Allied Joint Doctrine for Joint Targeting, Edition A, Version 1, April 2016

WeaponSystems

Army Developing Weapons with 1,000-Mile Range

For the first time since the Soviet Union fell, the Army is developing weapons with a thousand-mile range. That’s roughly five times the range of anything the Army fields today and three times the range of previously announced programs. The payoff in a future war with Russia or China could be dramatic – but the technological, financial and even legal problems are daunting.

The ambition? Develop not one but two types of ultra-long-range missiles to help blow holes in advanced air defenses:

One Army weapon, not yet officially named, would be a high-performance hypersonic missile, tearing through missile defenses at Mach 5-plus to kill critical hardened targets such as command bunkers.
The other, the Strategic Long-Range Cannon (SLRC), would use a gun barrel to launch cheaper, slower missiles at larger numbers of softer targets like radars, missile launchers and mobile command posts.

Together with comparable weapons launched from jets, ships, and submarines, these ground-launched “strategic fires” would blast a path for attacking aircraft, from Army helicopters to Air Force bombers. That kind of mutual support – formally known as Multi-Domain Operations – would transform the Army’s role from a consumer of the other services’ support to a full partner in providing long-range firepower.

Related Articles

Multidomain Battle: Time for a Campaign of Joint Experimentation, National Defense University, 9 January 2018

Multidomain Battle: Converging Concepts Toward a Joint Solution, National Defense University, 10 January 2018

Aiming The Army’s Thousand-Mile Missiles, Breaking Defense, 11 September 2018

Will The Army’s 1,000-Mile Missiles Kill Reagan’s INF Treaty?, Breaking Defense, 12 September 2018

WeaponSystems

Army Developing Weapons with 1,000-Mile Range

For the first time since the Soviet Union fell, the Army is developing weapons with a thousand-mile range. That’s roughly five times the range of anything the Army fields today and three times the range of previously announced programs. The payoff in a future war with Russia or China could be dramatic – but the technological, financial and even legal problems are daunting.

The ambition? Develop not one but two types of ultra-long-range missiles to help blow holes in advanced air defenses:

One Army weapon, not yet officially named, would be a high-performance hypersonic missile, tearing through missile defenses at Mach 5-plus to kill critical hardened targets such as command bunkers.
The other, the Strategic Long-Range Cannon (SLRC), would use a gun barrel to launch cheaper, slower missiles at larger numbers of softer targets like radars, missile launchers and mobile command posts.

Together with comparable weapons launched from jets, ships, and submarines, these ground-launched “strategic fires” would blast a path for attacking aircraft, from Army helicopters to Air Force bombers. That kind of mutual support – formally known as Multi-Domain Operations – would transform the Army’s role from a consumer of the other services’ support to a full partner in providing long-range firepower.

Related Articles

Multidomain Battle: Time for a Campaign of Joint Experimentation, National Defense University, 9 January 2018

Multidomain Battle: Converging Concepts Toward a Joint Solution, National Defense University, 10 January 2018

Aiming The Army’s Thousand-Mile Missiles, Breaking Defense, 11 September 2018

Will The Army’s 1,000-Mile Missiles Kill Reagan’s INF Treaty?, Breaking Defense, 12 September 2018

WeaponSystems

Army Developing Weapons with 1,000-Mile Range

For the first time since the Soviet Union fell, the Army is developing weapons with a thousand-mile range. That’s roughly five times the range of anything the Army fields today and three times the range of previously announced programs. The payoff in a future war with Russia or China could be dramatic – but the technological, financial and even legal problems are daunting.

The ambition? Develop not one but two types of ultra-long-range missiles to help blow holes in advanced air defenses:

One Army weapon, not yet officially named, would be a high-performance hypersonic missile, tearing through missile defenses at Mach 5-plus to kill critical hardened targets such as command bunkers.
The other, the Strategic Long-Range Cannon (SLRC), would use a gun barrel to launch cheaper, slower missiles at larger numbers of softer targets like radars, missile launchers and mobile command posts.

Together with comparable weapons launched from jets, ships, and submarines, these ground-launched “strategic fires” would blast a path for attacking aircraft, from Army helicopters to Air Force bombers. That kind of mutual support – formally known as Multi-Domain Operations – would transform the Army’s role from a consumer of the other services’ support to a full partner in providing long-range firepower.

Related Articles

Multidomain Battle: Time for a Campaign of Joint Experimentation, National Defense University, 9 January 2018

Multidomain Battle: Converging Concepts Toward a Joint Solution, National Defense University, 10 January 2018

Aiming The Army’s Thousand-Mile Missiles, Breaking Defense, 11 September 2018

Will The Army’s 1,000-Mile Missiles Kill Reagan’s INF Treaty?, Breaking Defense, 12 September 2018

WeaponSystems

Missile Defense Market Poised for Growth

The State Department in January authorized the SM-6 for foreign military sales, a move that could be a financial boon for Raytheon’s overseas market. The SM-6 provides ships with extended-range protection against fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of flight, according to Raytheon.

WeaponSystems

Can China and Russia Make U.S. Aircraft Carriers Obsolete?

The United States Navy is absolutely confident in the ability of its aircraft carriers and carrier air wings to fly and fight within zones defended by so-called anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) weapons. Both Russia and China—and to a lesser extent Iran—have been developing layered anti-ship and anti-aircraft defenses that would make it more difficult for the U.S. Navy to operate closer to their shores. In the view of the U.S. Navy leadership, A2/AD—as it is now called—has existed since the dawn of warfare when primitive man was fighting with rocks and spears. Overtime, A2/AD techniques have evolved as technology has improved with ever-greater range and lethality. Rocks and spears eventually gave way to bows and arrows, muskets and cannons. Thus, the advent of long-range anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles is simply another technological evolution of A2/AD.

 

 

 

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Future Drones Smarter, More Lethal, Stealthy

“The ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) side will get a lot smarter. With the next generation, you will see UAVs that are faster, more maneuverable and maybe stealthy. You will see them accompanying fighters with extra weapons, EW (electronic warfare), countermeasures and even lasers on board,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Some of these anticipated developments were forecasted in a 2014 Air Force report called RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) Vector designed to anticipate and prepare for future drone developments over the coming 25 years. However, the rapid pace of technological change has sped up and, to some extent, changed the timeline and mission scope for drones outlined in the report.

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US Air Force Unveils New B-21 Bomber

ORLANDO, Fla.—The US Air Force secretary unveiled the first official rendering of the new Long Range Strike Bomber and revealed its official designation: the B-21.

In a speech at the Air Force Association”s Air Warfare Symposium on Feb. 26, Secretary Deborah Lee James shared an artist”s concept design of the next-generation bomber, which will be built by Northrop Grumman. She also announced the plane”s long-awaited designation, calling it the B-21.

However, the Air Force still has not decided on a name for the new B-21, James said. She called on airmen to send in suggestions.

“So we have an image, we have a designation, but what we don”t yet have, we don”t yet have a name,” James said, “and this is where I”m challenging and I”m calling on every airman today … to give us your best suggestions for a name for the B-21, America”s newest bomber.”