U.S. military’s newest weapon against China and Russia: Hot air

“The Pentagon is working on a new plan to rise above competition from China and Russia: balloons.

The high-altitude inflatables, flying at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, would be added to the Pentagon’s extensive surveillance network and could eventually be used to track hypersonic weapons.”

““High or very high-altitude platforms have a lot of benefit for their endurance on station, maneuverability and also flexibility for multiple payloads,” said Tom Karako, senior fellow for the International Security Program and Missile Defense Project director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Pentagon continues to invest in these projects because the military could use the balloons for various missions.”

“Wind currents allow the balloon to float along a desired flight path, and the company takes advantage of different wind speeds and directions to move the balloon to the target area.

But that’s not all. Raven Aerostar uses a proprietary machine-learning algorithm that predicts wind directions and fuses incoming sensor data in real time, Van Der Werff said. The company also employs a software program to pilot and monitor its balloon fleet and has a mission operations center manned with trained flight engineers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he added.

The balloons can supplement work performed by traditional aircraft and satellites, and stratospheric balloons can be built and launched at a fraction of the cost and time. For example, the cost to launch and operate balloons for weeks or months is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus millions — or tens of millions — needed to launch and operate aircraft or satellites.”

Biden administration commits to limiting use of land mines

“The White House announced..it will commit to limiting the use of anti-personnel land mines in most places around the world, putting an end to a Trump-era expansion of the policy that President Joe Biden had vowed to reverse.

Anti-personnel land mines, designed for use against humans, have a “disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped,” the White House said in a statement ”

“The Biden administration noted that the use of anti-personnel land mines will continue on the Korean Peninsula because of the “unique circumstances” there and the United States’ commitment to defend South Korea against North Korea.”

“The policy is “in sharp contrast” to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, where there’s evidence that the country has used anti-personnel landmines that have caused “extensive damage” to civilians and infrastructure, Brown said. He declined to say whether the war in Ukraine provided the impetus for the administration’s move, emphasizing that the policy has been under review since January 2021 and was recently concluded.
The policy change aims to “bring U.S. practice in closer alignment with a global humanitarian movement that has had a demonstrated positive impact in reducing civilian casualties” from land mines, the statement said.”

Ukraine thanks U.S. for ‘game changing’ weapons system: But what is the HIMARS?

“Built by military contractor Lockheed Martin, the HIMARS, or high-mobility artillery rocket system, can fire the same type of long-range ordnance as a conventional multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), such as the M270, at targets up to 300 kilometers away. It too can put Ukrainian forces out of range of artillery, while placing the Russian batteries at risk.

A crew consisting of driver, gunner, and launcher section chief operate the system, which carries a payload of six precision-guided missiles. A spent munitions pod can be reloaded in mere minutes by trained soldiers.

Yet it has one key difference—the M142 is not a heavy tracked vehicle, like a tank for example, but instead uses a three-axle wheeled chassis one might find in a commercial semitruck.

“This design offers a unique shoot and scoot capability that enables soldiers, Marines and our allies to position, engage and rapidly relocate after firing,” wrote Michael Williamson, vice president and general manager of missiles and fire control at Lockheed Martin, last year in a LinkedIn post.

Thanks to its light weight, the HIMARS is also easily transportable so it can be utilized in locations otherwise hard to reach. It’s even deployable from a C-130 Hercules turboprop transport plane.”

R.I.P. USS Kitty Hawk, the Navy’s Last Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier

“The current U.S. Navy carrier fleet is entirely nuclear powered, consisting of ten Nimitz-class carriers and USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class. The Navy prefers nuclear-powered aircraft carriers as they don’t require fuel oil and have essentially unlimited range. A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier can depart immediately to deal with an international crisis without having to top off with fuel. The use of nuclear power also lessens the burden on the Navy’s logistics fleet to keep carriers moving.”

Stop calling Switchblades ‘drones’ — it’s causing policy confusion

“the Switchblade is a weapon, not a UAV or what most people think about as a drone. Yes, it flies and can be guided in real time, but it was clearly designed and intended to be used as a weapon. When clear of the launch tube, its folded wings pop out and electric engine powers up, allowing the weapon to fly up to 25 miles from its launch point. The operator controls the Switchblade remotely by data link, using the camera in the weapon’s nose to navigate to the target area. Once the target is designated by the operator, the weapon automatically guides and crashes itself into the target, detonating the explosive warhead.

Nor is this kind of weapon the only example of this new mission class and technical capability. Even if a munition can be recovered in the event that no target is found, what matters is the intent of employment: target destruction through self-destruction.

Contrast this to remotely piloted aircraft, which may deliver independent munitions, but are intended to be recovered and flown again and again just like a manned aircraft. The key differentiator is the intention behind how these respective technologies are used. This repeated reuse — similar to a manned aircraft — is what distinguishes UAVs from loitering munitions like the Switchblade.”

US Army terminates science and technology effort for strategic long-range cannon

“Congress directed the Army to stop funding the long-range cannon in its fiscal 2022 appropriations act, and “based on that direction, the Secretary of the Army decided to terminate the [SLRC] project this year,” Ellen Lovett, Army spokesperson said in a May 20 statement to Defense News.

The decision also “eliminates potential redundancy, and ensures we effectively use tax dollars to achieve modernization objectives,” she wrote. “Pursuing the effort could cost billions of dollars even if the science and technology effort succeeded because the Army would have to enter into a development program, procure the system, and create entirely new units to operate it.”

The Army still has four other long-range fires programs set to reach operational Army units in 2023”

Moskva’s sinking, the rise of anti-ship cruise missiles and what that means for the US Navy

“If Ukraine’s Neptune ASCMs upended Russia’s naval presence in the Black Sea with ease, clearly the U.S. Navy and Congress must consider whether our pacing threat is capable of the same.

The U.S. Navy has been furiously working on countermeasures, such as longer-range radars and integrated air and missile defense systems, both of which are being incorporated into new ship construction. The Navy also expressed confidence in the contribution of our submarine fleet with a higher budget for submarine construction and plans to extend the life of older Los Angeles-class subs.

These vessels are relatively impervious to the ASCM threat; our surface fleet is not. Today’s surface fleet must be capable to detect, track and engage our adversaries’ most capable anti-ship missiles, and have the structural integrity to survive damage sustained in combat.

President Joe Biden’s proposed Navy budget reflects the need to think through this strategic challenge. On the one hand, the request of $28 billion for Navy shipbuilding is the largest ever. By way of comparison, then-President Donald Trump’s last budget in 2020 requested $19 billion. But Biden’s request also seeks to decommission a number of legacy surface ships that predate the threat posed by modern anti-ship missiles. Predictably, this decision has been greeted by a chorus of protest, but nonetheless the fact remains: Every U.S. ship that sails into harm’s way must represent a relevant threat and be fit to fight.”