Thursday, April 6, 2017

U.S. Navy tests updated Triton drone

U.S. Navy tests updated Triton drone: The U.S. Navy recently completed a round of tests with an updated variant of the Northrop Grumman-built MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle.

According to the manufacturer, enhancements included software designed to improve the aircraft's autonomous operational capabilities. Testers say the trials enable the platform to enter Early Operational Capability for the U.S. armed forces in early 2018.

"The integration of this enhanced software suite expands Triton's operational maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities and moves it that much closer to qualification for operational missions in the Pacific theater," Triton program vice president Doug Shaffer said in a press release.

Can the US Defend Against a North Korean Missile Strike? |

Can the US Defend Against a North Korean Missile Strike? | A flurry of recent missile tests by North Korea has set nerves on edge and stirred fresh concern about whether U.S. defenses could protect Americans against a sneak attack. North Korea has detonated nuclear devices and is trying to develop long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.

The Pentagon has spent more than $40 billion on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system -- GMD for short. It's designed specifically to thwart a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet there are grave doubts about whether it's up to the task.

Here is a look at the system's origins, how it's supposed to work and the technical problems that have bedeviled it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

'No defense' against multiple Russian missiles: US general

'No defense' against multiple Russian missiles: US general: The United States and its allies would have "no defense" against large numbers of ground-launched cruise missiles of the type recently deployed by Russia, a top US general warned Tuesday.

Washington has repeatedly accused Moscow of deploying a land-based cruise missile system in contravention of a 1987 US-Russia arms control deal, known as the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

General John Hyten, who heads the US military's Strategic Command, told lawmakers that a single ground-launched cruise missile is not a significant threat, but the calculus changes if multiple missiles are launched.

"We have no defense for it, especially in defense of our European allies," Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"That system can range and threaten most of the continent of Europe depending on where it is deployed. ... It is a concern and we're going to have to figure out how to deal with it as a nation."

US officials have not described the missile deployed by the Russians, but experts say it could be easily tipped with a nuclear warhead.

The New York Times has reported that the Russian missile deployment is in the region of Volgograd and at a second non-identified site.

General Warns of Need to Boost Airlift Capacity |

General Warns of Need to Boost Airlift Capacity | The Air Force projects its muscle through fighter jets, bombers and drones. But without tankers, those aircraft are short on flight time. And without airlift support, the pilots, crew and maintenance units needed to keep them flying stay stateside.

That connection is what Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II wants lawmakers to remember. And it's why the service is working to upgrade its C-5 Galaxy fleet and keep its C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in key condition.

"Just a few years ago, we had 112 C-5s. Today, we have 56," Everhart told congressional staffers during a demonstration day here March 31. The presentation included a tour a C-5, plus two C-17s and a C-130 Hercules.

Sequestration resulted "in moving eight C-5s into backup aircraft inventory … which means we still have the aircraft but lost all manning and funding to operate them," he said.

Now Everhart wants them back, and he's making it his top priority.

"I need them back because there's real world things that we've got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability," he said.

"Those eight C-5Ms? I was going to buy them back within a two-year period," Everhart said. With budget caps in place and without an appropriations bill, "that's been delayed twice … in two budget cycles."

US Air Force Preparing for War in Space |
US Air Force Preparing for War in Space | The U.S. Air Force is preparing airmen for a future in which war is waged in space, with training on hardening satellites against anti-jamming technology to protecting spacecraft from incoming missiles.

The goal is to train the service members to combat new and evolving threats against the service's "vulnerable" space infrastructure, much of which dates to the Cold War, an official said.

The 527th Space Aggressor Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, is tasked with training service members to fight in a contested space environment. Historically, that has meant jamming Global Positioning System and satellite communications signals, making it so troops can't access the space assets they rely upon and forcing them to think of alternatives.

"There really is no such thing as a space war -- it's just war," said Lt. Col. Kyle Pumroy, chief of Space Force Structure Plans for the Space and Cyberspace Superiority Division of the Air Force's Directorate of Strategic Plans. sat down with Pumroy at the Pentagon before he was awarded the General Bernard Schriever Award by the National Space Club last month for his service and enhanced training techniques while leading the space aggressors in 2016.

Military Sees Dire Future If Congress Doesn't Act on Budget |

Military Sees Dire Future If Congress Doesn't Act on Budget | The military services are warning that their combat operations and training will be curtailed severely if Republicans and Democrats fail to end their bickering over the federal budget and pass only a stopgap spending measure, according to Pentagon documents.

Ships won't leave port, aircraft will be grounded, weapons modernization programs will be postponed and critical industrial skills could be blunted should Congress approve another so-called "continuing resolution" for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year, according to military documents assembled to buttress the Pentagon's plea. These documents were recently sent to members of Congress.

"We will have to cease flight operations within (the United States) at the end of July 2017," the Marine Corps assessment reads. "Cancel three surface ship deployments, resulting in gaps in European and Central Commands," the Navy said. A stopgap bill, according to the Air Force, "limits our ability to rebuild" and increases the risk to the warfighter.

The chiefs of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy are expected to amplify these concerns at a House Armed Services Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday. They'll argue for Congress to approve a $578 billion defense bill for 2017 and also pass a $30 billion supplement to the legislation that President Donald Trump requested last month.

Senior U.S. military officials have cautioned many times before about the need for Congress to avoid stopgap measures and do its job of passing individual spending bills. Yet the deep ideological divides have stoked worries that another continuing resolution is in the military's future.

A temporary government-wide spending bill approved late last year runs out at midnight April 28.

Spot's Back: Marines Resume Testing With Four-Legged Robot |

Spot's Back: Marines Resume Testing With Four-Legged Robot | After a long hiatus, the Marine Corps is about to start experimenting again with one of its most fanciful concepts.

Officials with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab told that Spot, the Corps' four-legged robot, will enter developmental testing this fall focused on the possibilities of manned-unmanned teaming with ground troops.

The dog-sized robot's hydraulic legs may prove more maneuverable than the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, a small unmanned system with tank-like treads that has also been tested at the Warfighting Lab, said Capt. Mike Malandra, the lab's ground branch head for science and technology.

"It's not a tracked vehicle so it can turn around on a dime. The other benefit of something like that is it can get up when it falls over, whereas MAARS can't," Malandra said. "So that's really what we're looking at doing, potentially, with those kinds of things moving forward here in fall: Use it as a surrogate platform for something that is maneuverable in a way similar to a human."

The Corps has had a long flirtation with the idea of incorporating four-legged robots into infantry operations.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Uncharted waters: US Navy still searching for path to a bigger fleet

Uncharted waters: US Navy still searching for path to a bigger fleet: Just about everybody in and around the U.S. Navy agrees there is a pressing need to build a bigger fleet. Just about nobody agrees on a way to get there.

It’s not yet clear what the overall goal will be — 355 ships, the latest figure put forth by the Navy to grow from today’s 308-ship fleet target — or the Trump administration’s oft-stated 350-ship fleet. No one knows how much the new fleet will cost because there have been no decisions on the new force’s makeup — how many submarines, aircraft carriers, big-deck amphibious ships, destroyers and the like will be needed.

No decisions have been reached on how or what to change from existing plans that all date from the previous presidential administration. No one is yet sure what those in power want — what their priorities are, what directions they want to take to reach yet-to-be-determined goals, even who the real players are. Some of those presupposed key players have yet to be named or nominated, much less put in office. There are no timelines yet for reaching any of those conclusions.

No one knows precisely what will be in the next budget because, for one, the Pentagon is still working on the fiscal 2018 budget which won’t be sent to Congress until mid-May, and secondly, Congress, trapped in a seemingly endless inability to pass timely defense budgets, still hasn’t finished work on the 2017 budget

Researchers create Star Wars 'superlaser' in the lab

Researchers create Star Wars 'superlaser' in the lab: Scientists at Macquarie University have developed a laser similar to the sci-fi superlaser used by the Death Star in Star Wars. A superlaser combines the multiple laser beams into a single beam.

"Researchers are developing high power lasers to combat threats to security from the increased proliferation of low-cost drones and missile technology," Rich Mildren, an associate professor of physics at Macquarie, said in a news release. "High power lasers are also needed in space applications including powering space vehicles and tackling the growing space junk problem that threatens satellites."

The convergence of laser beams was achieved using an ultra-pure diamond crystal. The crystal transfers the power of multiple beams into a single strand without sacrificing energy through distortion. During the convergence, the new superlaser beam assumes a new color.

U.S. Navy launches LRASM missile from Super Hornet

U.S. Navy launches LRASM missile from Super Hornet: Lockheed Martin's Long Range Anti-Ship Missile was launched from a Super Hornet aircraft for the first time during a recent validation test with the U.S. Navy.

The missile, also referred to as LRASM, is a precision-guided anti-ship weapon designed to track and destroy specific targets within enemy groups. According to Lockheed Martin, the recent test with the missile validated its air-to-ground capabilities.

"The first time event of releasing LRASM from the F/A-18E/F is a major milestone towards meeting early operational capability in 2019," program director Mike Fleming said in a press release. "The program is executing the integration and test contract, maturing subsystems and proving flight worthiness."

Budget Woes Threaten Marine Corps Plan to Defeat Enemy Drones |

Budget Woes Threaten Marine Corps Plan to Defeat Enemy Drones | The Marine Corps has a strategy to counter enemy unmanned aerial systems, the service's number two officer confirmed Monday -- but if Congress can't pass the defense appropriations bill, it may be unable to pull the trigger.

Speaking at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space conference, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn Walters said that if the Defense Department must instead contend with a yearlong continuing resolution, keeping funding flat, the service won't be able to execute its new plan to contend with emerging threats.

"People forget that the world just changes frequently now," Walters said. "We are seeing UAS threats in the Middle East right now that we had not seen last year, which means we didn't have a program for it last year. Which means if we have a CR this year, we can't use the money and counter the threat, and that's a challenge."

Follow The Money: The Taliban's Growing Criminal Empire |

Follow The Money: The Taliban's Growing Criminal Empire |

Ever since being deposed in November 2001, by a combination of Northern Alliance Militias and U.S. Special Forces, the Taliban has been conducting an insurgency aimed at overthrowing the U.S. and NATO-backed Afghan government. Officially, the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force, also known as Operation Enduring Freedom, was designed to topple the Taliban Government, root out al-Qaida's leadership and establish a democratic government in Kabul. It ended on December 28, 2014. It was replaced by a new NATO-led mission called Resolute Support (RSM), designed to train, advise and assist the Afghan military forces. In the meantime, the insurgency has continued unabated and Taliban militants have steadily increased both the scope and intensity of their attacks, as well as the areas they can either directly control or extend their influence over.

Parallel with the growth of the Taliban insurgency has been an equally dramatic growth in the range of criminal activities that the Taliban uses to fund its operations. Such practices are nothing new. European subversive organizations have often engaged in kidnappings for ransom or bank robberies to obtain funds to finance their activities. Such practices have been true from contemporary groups like Baader Meinhof or the Brigate Rosse to Lenin's Bolsheviks a century ago. In the United States, the Symbionese Liberation Army famously kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and staged a bank robbery. In Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) evolved from a Marxist-Leninist inspired guerilla movement that trafficked in cocaine to fund its operations to a full-fledged criminal narcotics organization that paid only nominal attention to its ideological roots.

Officially, it's believed that the Taliban has a yearly budget of around $500 million. In private, however, Western and Afghani intelligence agencies admit that the real Taliban budget is closer to between $1 billion and $2 billion, with most opting for the higher number. Intelligence sources at the RSM place the number even higher -- at more than $2 billion. Moreover, it is widely believed that the Taliban has stockpiled cash amounting to several billion additional dollars in preparation of a major campaign to seize control of Afghanistan at some point in the future.

Where exactly does the Taliban get all this cash?

First Woman to Command a Brigade in Combat Looks Back on Army Career |

First Woman to Command a Brigade in Combat Looks Back on Army Career |

For more than 35 years, El Pasoan and Army Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown has broken gender barriers and served as a role model during a history-making military career.

Brown, 57, officially retired from the Army on Saturday.

When she got an opportunity during her career, she made the most of it, Brown said.

"You just want to be afforded the same opportunities everyone else is afforded," Brown said during an interview. "That is the first step. Don't discount me. You can pick me last if you think I'm not good enough. Just pick me and give me a chance and let me show you what I can do."

"That's what all of us want," Brown continued. "It doesn't matter if it's gender, race, religion, whatever it may be. Just give me a chance and treat me like everyone else."

During the Iraq war in 2003, she commanded Fort Bliss' 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade and became the first woman to command a brigade in combat. The 31st ADA Brigade is now headquartered at Fort Sill, Okla.

Her most recent assignment was as the director of global operations for U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. She was the first female combatant command operations officer and first U.S. Army soldier to serve in that position for Strategic Command.

Monday, April 3, 2017

"Speed-to-Fleet" Answered the Call: Missiles On-Target "Skin to Skin"

"Speed-to-Fleet" Answered the Call: Missiles On-Target "Skin to Skin"

Donald Cook and Ross each successfully intercepted anti-ship cruise missile target drones with live missiles fired from the ships' new SeaRAM close-in weapons systems.

These two ships join USS Porter and USS Carney as the SeaRAM-capable ships ready to counter any threat thanks to this upgrade in self-defense technology. Porter and Carney previously conducted successful live-fire SeaRAM missile exercises on March 2016, and July 2016, respectively.

As part of the Navy's "Speed to Fleet" program, the SeaRAM self-defense missile system was rapidly fielded to the four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that are forward deployed to Rota, Spain. In combination with the ship's Aegis Weapons System, the SeaRAM system provides enhanced point defense for these ships by combining components of the proven Phalanx close-in weapon system with the capabilities of the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM).

In less than two years, the Navy was able to provide all four ships deployed to Rota with this modernization, enhancing their existing capability to counter modern anti-ship cruise missiles.

Through the work of the Navy's program executive officer for integrated warfare systems, each of these ships were able to receive the system on time, on budget, and ready to operate.

This program started in 2015 with the initiative of the Navy Staff, Surface Warfare Directorate (OPNAV N96), the Department of Navy Budget Office (FMB), and the support of a congressional reprogramming of funds from within the Navy's existing budget.

Through this "Speed to Fleet" program, the Navy has modernized and improved warships to meet the ever-changing anti-ship cruise missile threats throughout the European theatre of operations.

"This game-changing technology continues to ensure our ability for these multi-mission ships to steam into harm's way as required anywhere in this theater in support of U.S. national interests, and in support of our allies and partners. These ships patrol throughout this theater with an array of the most-capable weapons in the world; we put the concept of 'distributed lethality' to work in this pivotal region every day," said Capt. Tate Westbrook, commander, Task Force 65, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 60, following the successful results of this latest missile test.

New sensor platform increases situational awareness

New sensor platform increases situational awareness: The Navy has taken a step forward in deploying a new mine-detection sensor platform. The helicopter-borne array should give operators a way to glean situational awareness around nautical mines from a safe stand-off distance.

The Navy recently announced initial operational capability for the AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, or ALMDS. Mounted on MH-60 helicopters, the system delivers rapid wide-area assessment of mine threats in sea lanes, littoral zones, confined straits, choke points and amphibious areas of operations.

This latest development supports the Navy’s ongoing effort to get smarter and more efficient about mine detection at sea.

“Our primary hunting, sweep and neutralization systems must be replaced with new technologies that will do the time consuming, dangerous, and dirty work,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, director of expeditionary warfare, said in a Navy news release.

Northrop Grumman Corporation says it has delivered 15 of 38 systems to the Navy, and the deployment among littoral combat ships will begin this year.

With Trump Approval, Pentagon Expands Warfighting Authority |

With Trump Approval, Pentagon Expands Warfighting Authority | Week by week, country by country, the Pentagon is quietly seizing more control over warfighting decisions, sending hundreds more troops to war with little public debate, and seeking greater authority to battle extremists across the Middle East and Africa.

This week it was Somalia, where President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants. Next week it could be Yemen, where military leaders want to provide more help for the United Arab Emirates' battle against Iran-backed rebels. Key decisions on Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are looming, from ending troop number limits to loosening rules that guide commanders in the field.

The changes in Trump's first two months in office underscore his willingness to let the Pentagon manage its own day-to-day combat. Under the Obama administration, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that included commanders needing approval for routine tactical decisions about targets and personnel moves.

But delegating more authority to the Pentagon -- and combat decisions to lower level officers -- carries its own military and political risks. Casualties, of civilians and American service members, may be the biggest.

When America Joined WWI and Became a Global Power |

When America Joined WWI and Became a Global Power | When America entered World War I, a century ago this week, the European powers were bogged down in a grinding trench war that had killed millions and ravaged the European continent.

Swinging its industrial might and vast manpower behind France and Britain against Germany and its allies on April 6, 1917, the United States tipped the balance of the conflict and marked its own emergence as a global power.

"World War I was clearly the turning point for developing a new global role for the United States, ushering in a century of international engagement to promote democracy," said Jennifer Keene, a World War I expert at Chapman University in California.

Russian Submarine Patrols Match Cold War-era Intensity |

Russian Submarine Patrols Match Cold War-era Intensity | Russian submarines have increased combat patrols to the level last seen during the Cold War, the navy chief said Friday.

Adm. Vladimir Korolyov said that Russian submarine crews spent more than 3,000 days on patrol last year, matching the Soviet-era operational tempo.

"It's an excellent level," he said in remarks carried by state RIA Novosti news agency.