Archive for the World Military Corner Category

How A Car Company Built So Many Important Military Machines Of World War II

Posted in World Military Corner with tags on January 3, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

Post 5006

How A Car Company Built So Many Important Military Machines Of World War II

How A Car Company Built So Many Important Military Machines Of World War II1

Did you know that Chrysler built more than 25 percent of America’s tanks during World War II? And in addition to tanks and trucks too, it even helped arm the Allied Powers’ mighty warships. You can learn more about the Chrysler “Arsenal of Democracy” in this new film.

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/ajax/inset/iframe?id=youtube-video-1sCUIrsw9DI&start=0

Fiat Chrysler released this mini documentary about its role in the war effort in recognition of the 75th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s historic Arsenal of Democracy radio broadcast on December 29, 1940.

The five-minute film is narrated by FCA’s on-staff historian Brandt Rosenbusch and is actually pretty interesting. I had no idea that Chrysler built anti-aircraft guns, 25,000 Sherman Tanks, or that the now-iconic Dodge Power Wagon had a light-duty predecessor.

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Poland Is Pretty Convinced It Found A Buried Nazi Train, Maybe Full Of Gold

Posted in World Military Corner with tags , on January 3, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

Post 5005

Poland Is Pretty Convinced It Found A Buried Nazi Train, Maybe Full Of Gold

Poland Is Pretty Convinced It Found A Buried Nazi Train, Maybe Full Of Gold

Two random guys said they’d found a long-lost Nazi train last week, buried underground at the end of World War II. Local legends said that one matching the description went missing in the closing days of the war, and it was full of plundered gold. It sounded crazy, but the Polish government said they might be onto something.

From the BBC:

A Polish official says ground-penetrating radar images have left him “99% convinced” that a World War Two German military train is buried near the south-western city of Walbrzych.

Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said images appeared to show a train equipped with gun turrets.

The two men found the train with the help of a map drawn by one of a man who helped to hide the train in 1945, NBC reports, when he was on his deathbed. There’s no word on whether or not the train actually holds anything valuable (beyond the sheer historicity of the find), but even then, things get murky.

The two men who found the train believe that they’re entitled to 10% of the value of whatever the train holds. At the same time, it’s not like the Nazis just conjured gold out of thin air, try as they might. It was stolen from somewhere, and the rightful owners of the property and their heirs probably have some sort of claim.

The Polish government isn’t saying exactly where the train is, as they’re still evaluating the next steps to take.

But in the meantime, please, for the love of all that is holy, do not try to find it yourself. Zuchowski said that there’s a “huge probability” the train is mined and booby-trapped. And you can’t collect on lost Nazi gold if you’re, you know, dead.

Anyways, if you’re looking for buried trains in general, it’s probably a lot easier tojust start in the United States.


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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Long-Lost Nazi Train Packed With $1B in Gold Allegedly Discovered in Poland

Long-Lost Nazi Train Packed With $1B in Gold Allegedly Discovered in Poland12

We’ll believe it when we see it, but two men, one a Pole and one a German, say they know the location of a heavily armored Nazi train that was rumored to be hidden away in a tunnel during the dying days of the Second World War—a train that could contain upwards of 300 tons of gold.

As CNBC reports, the unidentified men are confident enough in their discovery that they’re filing for a 10% cut of the treasure’s value. The men will not disclose the location of the train until they receive the official assurance from the Walbrzych District Council in southwest Poland. CNBC has confirmed that the district council was contacted by a law firm working on the pair’s behalf, and that it was taking the proposal “very seriously.”

The train is supposedly hidden away somewhere in Lower Silesia in southwest Poland.

In an email to CNBC, an official wrote: “We know that is a military train with guns on it. We can suppose that inside could be also other weapons or even dangerous materials. Even methane gas [could be] inside of the tunnels.”

“We inform about finding by the shareholders [of an] armored train from WWII,” reads the legal letter sent to the Walbrzych council. “The train is likely to contain additional equipment in the form of self-propelled guns positioned on platforms with a total length of about 150 meters. The train also contains valuable, rare industrial materials and precious ores.”

So basically we have a couple of guys who think they’ve found an armored Nazi train, and owing to 70-year-old rumors of a mythical Nazi train filled with gold, precious stones, and weapons, they’re hedging their bets by making the legal claim. Given that rumors like this were rampant in the closing days of the war, I’d be surprised if this train had anything of value inside. It’s pure speculation at this point, and we’re only going by the unsubstantiated claims made by this hopeful pair.

And that’s assuming this isn’t some sort of prank. If true, however, it would be an astounding discovery. Australia’s News.com.au explains the story of the mystery train:

It was the last days of the war. The Russian Red Army was closing in on the city of Wroclaw. German forces were in full retreat.

During the Nazi occupation, a massive treasure of gold, gems, art and historical artefacts had been stripped from Polish museums, galleries and private collections. Then there were the gold reserves of the Wroclaw bank.

Now this untold wealth was at risk of falling into Russian hands.

So, a train — one of many clad with heavy armour and bristling with guns to withstand Allied air attacks — was sent to Wroclaw in May 1945 to remove the loot.

Among the treasures was said to be 23 boxes of gold bullion.

The 150m long assembly of armoured locomotive and carriages was spotted leaving along a south-western rail line.

It was never seen again.

There are actually two gold train stories; one says the train is under a mountain, while the other claims it’s somewhere around Walbrzych.

Yet, there’s absolutely no documented evidence to support this claim. In the years following the war, historians have not found anything to prove that such a train ever existed. It’s important to point out, however, that so-called “gold trains” did exist, including the Hungarian Gold Train. What’s more, Germans did build a complex system of tunnels in the area as part of Project Riese.

We’ll certainly be watching this unfolding story.

[ CNBC | News.com.au | Yahoo! News | BBC ]


Email the author at george@io9.com and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by Zwimer/1942 Anfang/Public domain

The triple barrel, 18-shot Pistola con Caricato revolver

Posted in World Military Corner with tags , on December 24, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4979

The triple barrel, 18-shot Pistola con Caricato revolver

http://www.gizmag.com/triple-barrel-revolver-surfaces/22523/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

The Pistola con Caricato is a three-barreled revolver with 18 chambers in 6.35 x 16 mm ...

The Pistola con Caricato is a three-barreled revolver with 18 chambers in 6.35 x 16 mm semi-rimmed caliber (Photo: Horst Held)

A host of unusual firearms have been floated and (mostly) abandoned over the two centuries of largely trial-and-error design. After our recent coverage of Arsenal Firearm’sAF2011-a1 double barrel semiautomatic pistol, we wondered if more extreme versions of multi-barrel repeating handguns existed. The outlandish Pistola con Caricato three-barreled revolver is a definite candidate.

A bottom view of the three-barrel revolver, showing the structure and remnants of a poor polishing ...

A bottom view of the three-barrel revolver, showing the structure and remnants of a poor polishing job (Photo: Horst Held)

This revolver was manufactured in Italy during the early part of the 20th century, complete with three barrels and 18 chambers in 6.35 x 16 mm semi-rimmed caliber (.25 ACP). While rather more bulky than one would want in a pocket handgun, 18 shots would provide a certain feeling of security in back alleys and dark lanes.

The only markings visible on the gun appear in the following photograph. They indicate that the revolver was made in Italy, and was given the name Pistola con Caricato. Caricato is an Italian word meaning either “stuffed” or “caricature” – either definition could apply to this rather strange handgun.

Markings on the triple-barrel revolver identify it as a Pistola con Caricato in 6.35mm. Caricato is an Italian word meaning either stuffed or caricature. Either could apply to this handgun (Photo: Horst Held)

After the name of the gun appears the marking “01-CAL .6.35.” In addition to identifying the caliber of the revolver, the 01 suggests that it may be a prototype, as does the rather sloppy stamping of the characters. If so, it does not appear to have made it into production, as there is virtually no historical record of this gun. There are additional markings in the photo, but they have been worn into illegibility. The view of the barrels from beneath shows that the bluing of the gun has probably been taken off during polishing, which may also explain the worn markings.

The 6.35 x 16 mm cartridge is traditional for light pocket handguns, as it is so low in power that safely containing the firing pressure does not require thick (and hence heavy) metal. In fact, the 6.35 x 16 mm cartridge is the lowest power standard cartridge still in manufacture, save for the rimfire .22 short. Having a impact momentum about one-fifth that of serious self-defense ammo, it is normally considered no substitute for a more powerful firearm.

On the left is seen the selector slide that chooses which of the firing pins (on the right) will be activated when the revolver is fired (Photo: Horst Held)

The revolver has four firing settings and a safety. The selector (above left) allows the shooter to select which firing pin and barrel will be used to fire the gun, and it also has an option to fire all three barrels on each pull of the trigger. There is also a mechanical safety that prevents the hammer from hitting any of the firing pins.

The revolver uses moon clip speedloaders to hold the 18 rounds of ammunition, thereby greatly reducing the difficulty of loading and reloading the gun (Photo: Horst Held)

The Pistola Con Caricato also made an early use of moon clips, as seen above, to load and unload cartridges from the gun. Moon clips were first introduced around 1908, and only became common in revolvers used in the First World War. The moon clips for the Pistola Con Caricato sandwiches the 18 rounds between a holding plate and a firing access plate, through which the firing pins strike the cartridges. With 18 rounds that just drop in and the top-break loading design, the gun must have been a quick loader.

Little solid history is associated with this handgun, again supporting the notion that it may have been a once-off prototype. It is rumored that this revolver once belonged to the firearms collection of the Smithsonian Institution, but confirmation of this claim has proven elusive.

Unfortunately, the Pistola Con Caricato has apparently been sold to a Russian collector, so if you were looking to add a triple-barrel pistol to your collection, you’ll probably have to make one yourself.

Source: Horst Held

US Army tests remote controlled weapon towers

Posted in World Military Corner with tags on December 20, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4966

US Army tests remote controlled weapon towers

http://www.gizmag.com/us-army-tests-remote-controlled-weapon-towers/39670/

Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another ...

Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another soldier pass near a remotely-controlled weapons system (Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

One of the more unpleasant aspects of army life has always been guard duty. It’s also very labor intensive. In the US Army, it takes four to six soldiers standing for up to 12 hours to man a single perimeter weapons system. To free up personnel for more important duties, the Army is testing the Tower Hawk System, which uses tower-mounted, remote-controlled weapons for base perimeter security.

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points ...

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or amps micro grid, which controls six 60-kilowatt generators

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

The tests are part of the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1, which is currently being conducted at an experimental expeditionary base camp at Fort Bliss, Texas. The camp consists of 15 air-conditioned billeting containers – complete with latrines, laundries and shower – that can house ten soldiers each, plus two containers for tactical operations. It’s here that 9,000 participants from the US Army and a 14-member coalition made up mainly of NATO nations are evaluating new technologies designed to make forward base operations more efficient in terms of energy, water and manpower.

Tower Hawk controller

Tower Hawk controller

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

The Tower Hawk System replaces conventional guard towers with unmanned towers set around the edge of the razor wire. It’s shipped in the form of containers and the towers that can be erected in less than an hour by six soldiers with only minimal training. Each tower is equipped with a Browning M-2 50-caliber machine gun and a 338 Lapua sniper rifle, though any other gun system can be swapped in.

Meanwhile, two soldiers in the base tactical operations center sit in front of large screens providing normal, thermal, and infrared vision for watching outside the perimeter. The operators use handheld controllers, at least some of which appear to be commercial video game controllers (that’s clearly an Xbox gamepad in the image below) that allow them to raise, lower, and rotate the weapons by 360 degrees, as well as fire them remotely. These are linked to the Joint All Hazard Command Control System software, which can differentiate between friend and foe, and can automatically track identified hostiles.

The upshot is that two soldiers can do the guard work of ten.

Some Tower Hawk controllers resemble those on video games (in fact, this one is an Xbox controller)

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Tower Hawk is one of a number of technologies under evaluation at NIE, including 11 new energy systems designed to reduce fuel and water consumption. Among these is the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or “amps micro grid,” which is a smart system that controls six 60-kilowatt generators. The system brings the generators on and off line as needed rather than running them continuously. It also monitors the generators and warns when one is in need of servicing.

A Water From Air System trailer

A Water From Air System trailer

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Another is a Water From Air System that works on the principle of a domestic dehumidifier to draw moisture out of the air at a rate of 500 gallons a day at even 10 percent humidity. In addition, there’s a black-water purifier and a gray-water recovery system designed to recover water after use and to ensure that discharges are clean before being released into the surrounding environment.

Staff Seargent James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company, shows his Force Provider System air-conditioned living ...

Staff Seargent James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company, shows his Force Provider System air-conditioned living quarters

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points ...

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Force Provider System air-conditioned living and working quarters

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

According to Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, the arrangements at the test base make for much more comfortable living than is usually the case.

Soldiers inside their tactical operations center remotely control multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

“I’ve got a few new soldiers here who’ve never been in field,” he says. “Next time they go to the field they’ll be disappointed.”

The video below shows the Tower Hawk System in operation.

Source: US Army

A heavy equipment transporter gets the container system out to the expeditionary base camp on Fort ...

A heavy equipment transporter gets the container system out to the expeditionary base camp on Fort Bliss, Texas

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

One expeditionary tower can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour with ...

One expeditionary tower can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour with minimal training

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

A remotely-controlled weapons system is shown on the expeditionary base camp perimeter

A remotely-controlled weapons system is shown on the expeditionary base camp perimeter

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Tower Hawk control center

Tower Hawk control center

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

A soldier pulls security, augmenting remotely-controlled multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

A soldier pulls security, augmenting remotely-controlled multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

 

Northrop Grumman set to develop tail-down UAV for DARPA’s Tern program

Posted in World Military Corner with tags on December 20, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4965

Northrop Grumman set to develop tail-down UAV for DARPA’s Tern program

http://www.gizmag.com/darpa-northrop-grumman-tern/40909/

Unlike this DARPA artist's concept, Northrop Grumman Tern would be a flying wing design

Unlike this DARPA artist’s concept, Northrop Grumman Tern would be a flying wing design (Credit: DARPA)

The competition to fulfil DARPA’s plan to turn US Navy destroyers and frigates into drone-launching aircraft carriers seems to be over as Northrop Grumman has unveiled its version of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (Tern) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Based on the flying wing design, the Tern UAV lifts off vertically in a tail-down configuration and is designed to operate from the decks of smaller surface ships in the US Navy without the need for aircraft carrier-type runways.

At present, Northrop is keeping details about the Tern to itself. No image has been released, though a model was unveiled by Northrop to reporters at a press conference in Los Angeles on December 11. However, it is the latest step in the decades-long pursuit of opening up fleet aviation beyond traditional aircraft carriers.

One of the greatest unsung revolutions in naval operations during the Cold War was the installation of flight decks on the sterns of frigates, destroyers, and other ships that allowed them to operate helicopters. By giving these ships air power without relying on carriers or shore bases, their ability to see and fight stretched from the horizon to the limits of the helicopter’s range and payload capacity.

In the past 15 years, this has been further augmented by the introduction of UAVs, but these have tended to be small, short-range aircraft of limited capacity compared to their manned counterparts. DARPA’s Tern program is looking at how to achieve the same success with UAVs that are larger and longer range than something based on a helicopter and that will allow the persistent forward deployment of fixed-wing drones from small Navy ships anywhere in the world.

Named after the family of long-distance migrating seabirds,Tern is a joint program between DARPA and the US Navy Office of Naval Research (ONR). Its goal is to develop launch and recover systems for UAVs that can be installed inexpensively, but not irreversibly on standard warships as well as medium-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft comparable in size to a Reaper drone and capable of operating from a small flight deck in heavy seas up to Sea State 5.

Though few details have been released, such launch and recovery systems may involve catapults or a crane-mounted grapple system similar to one that the Royal Navy experimented with to see if Harrier jump jets could operate from frigates. As for the aircraft, they would be designed for long-range intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The UAVs would be capable of carrying a 272 kg (600 lb) payload and have a range of up to 900 nm (1,670 km).

Until recently, the competition to develop Tern was a two-horse race, but AeroVironment dropped out in September, leaving Northrop Grumman as the only entrant. Though the formal winner for Phase 3 of the program to build a working demonstrator won’t be announced until early January, the odds now heavily favor Northrop.

According to Flight Global, the Northrop Grumman version of Tern is a flying wing with a wingspan of about 9.14 m (30 ft). Using contra-rotating blades for flight, it sits on its tail during take off like the experimental Lockheed XFV, which flew in the early 1950s. Under the terms of the DARPA contract, it’s capable of not only launching from a confined space, but also transitioning to sustained horizontal cruising.

In a recent report, Chris Hernandez, Northrop’s VP for research, technology, and advanced design spoke to Breaking Defense and said that if Northrop is tapped for the next phase of development, the next step will be to carry out powered wind tunnel tests to deal with the design’s complex aerodynamics. This will be followed by the development of a full-scale prototype for demonstration sea trials in the Pacific Ocean using a barge or a decommissioned warship using a flight deck of similar dimensions to that of a destroyer.

Source: DARPA

US Army tests remote controlled weapon towers

Posted in World Military Corner with tags on December 17, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4952

US Army tests remote controlled weapon towers

http://www.gizmag.com/us-army-tests-remote-controlled-weapon-towers/39670/

Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another ...

Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, right, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and another soldier pass near a remotely-controlled weapons system (Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

One of the more unpleasant aspects of army life has always been guard duty. It’s also very labor intensive. In the US Army, it takes four to six soldiers standing for up to 12 hours to man a single perimeter weapons system. To free up personnel for more important duties, the Army is testing the Tower Hawk System, which uses tower-mounted, remote-controlled weapons for base perimeter security.

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points ...

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or amps micro grid, which controls six 60-kilowatt generators

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

The tests are part of the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1, which is currently being conducted at an experimental expeditionary base camp at Fort Bliss, Texas. The camp consists of 15 air-conditioned billeting containers – complete with latrines, laundries and shower – that can house ten soldiers each, plus two containers for tactical operations. It’s here that 9,000 participants from the US Army and a 14-member coalition made up mainly of NATO nations are evaluating new technologies designed to make forward base operations more efficient in terms of energy, water and manpower.

Tower Hawk controller

Tower Hawk controller

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

The Tower Hawk System replaces conventional guard towers with unmanned towers set around the edge of the razor wire. It’s shipped in the form of containers and the towers that can be erected in less than an hour by six soldiers with only minimal training. Each tower is equipped with a Browning M-2 50-caliber machine gun and a 338 Lapua sniper rifle, though any other gun system can be swapped in.

Meanwhile, two soldiers in the base tactical operations center sit in front of large screens providing normal, thermal, and infrared vision for watching outside the perimeter. The operators use handheld controllers, at least some of which appear to be commercial video game controllers (that’s clearly an Xbox gamepad in the image below) that allow them to raise, lower, and rotate the weapons by 360 degrees, as well as fire them remotely. These are linked to the Joint All Hazard Command Control System software, which can differentiate between friend and foe, and can automatically track identified hostiles.

The upshot is that two soldiers can do the guard work of ten.

Some Tower Hawk controllers resemble those on video games (in fact, this one is an Xbox controller)

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Tower Hawk is one of a number of technologies under evaluation at NIE, including 11 new energy systems designed to reduce fuel and water consumption. Among these is the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source, or “amps micro grid,” which is a smart system that controls six 60-kilowatt generators. The system brings the generators on and off line as needed rather than running them continuously. It also monitors the generators and warns when one is in need of servicing.

A Water From Air System trailer

A Water From Air System trailer

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Another is a Water From Air System that works on the principle of a domestic dehumidifier to draw moisture out of the air at a rate of 500 gallons a day at even 10 percent humidity. In addition, there’s a black-water purifier and a gray-water recovery system designed to recover water after use and to ensure that discharges are clean before being released into the surrounding environment.

Staff Seargent James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company, shows his Force Provider System air-conditioned living ...

Staff Seargent James Clarke, from the 563rd Quartermaster Company, shows his Force Provider System air-conditioned living quarters

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points ...

Major Daniel Rodriguez, company commander, 542nd Quartermaster Company, a Reserve unit out of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out his Force Provider System air-conditioned living and working quarters

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

According to Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, the arrangements at the test base make for much more comfortable living than is usually the case.

Soldiers inside their tactical operations center remotely control multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

“I’ve got a few new soldiers here who’ve never been in field,” he says. “Next time they go to the field they’ll be disappointed.”

The video below shows the Tower Hawk System in operation.

Source: US Army

A heavy equipment transporter gets the container system out to the expeditionary base camp on Fort ...

A heavy equipment transporter gets the container system out to the expeditionary base camp on Fort Bliss, Texas

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

One expeditionary tower can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour with ...

One expeditionary tower can be put together by six soldiers in less than an hour with minimal training

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

A remotely-controlled weapons system is shown on the expeditionary base camp perimeter

A remotely-controlled weapons system is shown on the expeditionary base camp perimeter

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

Tower Hawk control center

Tower Hawk control center

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

A soldier pulls security, augmenting remotely-controlled multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

A soldier pulls security, augmenting remotely-controlled multiple weapons systems on the perimeter

(Credit: US Army/David Vergun)

 

This Is Northrop Grumman’s Idea Of A Sixth-Generation Fighter, But Is It Feasible?

Posted in World Military Corner with tags , on December 14, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4948

This Is Northrop Grumman’s Idea Of A Sixth-Generation Fighter, But Is It Feasible?

This Is Northrop Grumman's Idea Of A Sixth-Generation Fighter, But Is It Feasible?1234

Even as the Pentagon is struggling to figure out a way to afford and field its fifth-generation fighter of choice, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Navy and the U.S. Air Force—along with industry—are looking at what comes next. This sixth-generation fighter initiative is loosely known as the “F-X program” for the USAF and the “FA-XX” for the Navy.

The F-X program looks to to finally replace the F-15 Eagle, as well as the F-22 Raptor, and the FA-XX program aims to replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This new aircraft will be as much about reusable weaponry (lasers) as it is about expendable weaponry. Development of solid-state airborne laser capability is already well underway in the white world, and has most likely experienced other application gains in the black world.

This Is Northrop Grumman's Idea Of A Sixth-Generation Fighter, But Is It Feasible?5

The idea is that combat aircraft can use solid-state laser systems defensively, creating a sanitized sphere of safety around the aircraft, shooting down or critically damaging incoming missiles and approaching aircraft with their laser turrets. They can also use such a system offensively, leveraging their stealth capabilities to sneak up on enemy aircraft and striking with speed-of-light accuracy.

Even attacking targets on the ground, such as individual people, with pinpoint precision, or shooting down ballistic missiles and other targets traditionally relegated to larger and much more complex ground or sea-based weapon systems, are possibilities.

The introduction of nimble and compact lasers on the aerial battlefield will likely allow fighter-sized combat aircraft designs to cease putting a premium on maneuverability, as lasers are speed-of-light weapons. In other words, as long as the enemy can be detected and is within the laser’s range, they are at risk of being fried regardless of how hard they try to evade via hard turns and other high-g maneuvers. Countermeasures will become more about evading initial detection, staying outside an opposing aircraft’s laser’s envelope, and confusing targeting sensors than out-maneuvering the adversary. In other words, the dogfights of the future will look nothing like they do today.

One issue pointed out by Northrop Grumman is that these lasers, along with future engines and avionics, will put out a huge amounts of heat, making thermal control a huge concern for stealthy aircraft. Infrared search and track systems, both air and ground based, are only becoming more sensitive and reliable as time goes on. As a result, future stealthy fighter aircraft will have to keep their cool in order to remain undetected over the battlefield.

One way the Pentagon and possibly some defense aerospace contractors are looking at dealing with this problem will be by using a large thermal accumulator to control the aircraft’s heat signature while using laser weaponry, although Northrop Grumman seems to be pursuing a different—albeit more shadowy—way of dealing with the problem. Flightglobal.comtalked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems President Tom Vice about the issue:

“Venting the heat offboard only raises the aircraft’s visibility to heat-sealing sensors. Another option is to develop a thermal accumulator, which is a path the Air Force Research Laboratory is pursuing under the INVENT program. An electrical accumulator stores the energy onboard in the same way as a hydraulic accumulator, releasing the latent energy as necessary to generate a surge of power.

But Northrop’s sixth-generation fighter concept eschews the accumulator concept for thermal management. According to Vice, such a system imposes a limitation on the laser weapon’s magazine size or firing rate, forcing the pilot to exit combat until the accumulator is refilled with energy. Northrop is pursuing a concept instead that does not rely on accumulators or offboard venting to manage the heat, but Vice declines to elaborate on the company’s specific approach to solving the thermal management problem.”

So we know that lasers will be a significant part of a sixth-generation fighter capabilities, but what else do Northrop Grumman’s renderings tell us? First off, it looks like they want to scale down their Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) design, with the image at the top of this post likely having a very close resemblance to the yet-to-be-disclosed LRS-B design.

No matter what, clearly Northrop Grumman thinks the tailless concept is the way forward for future fighter aircraft. Specifically the flying wing, “cranked kite” design that the company has been developing for the last decade and a half, and has flown publicly on the X-47B, seems to be further extrapolated in the renderings above.

This concept also makes it clear that enhanced range and payload will be key factors in a sixth-generation fighter design. Sadly, this was not realized with the F-35, which retained more of a traditional jet fighter configuration and design concept. In the high-end wars of the future, the F-35 and its vulnerable tanker support aircraft will likely be pushed back far outside a capable enemy’s anti-access/area denial defenses.

This means other ways of initially breaking down an enemy’s defenses,including their integrated air defense network (IADS), will be needed. This will have to be left to expensive and limited supplies of standoff weaponry as well as low observable aircraft with long-endurance capabilities. This is why procuring the Long Range Strike Bomber and keeping the B-2 Spirit viable is so important.

For a sixth-generation fighter like the ones depicted by Northrop Grumman, top-end speed and maneuverability may be sacrificed to some degree—at least, if the crank-kite flying wing design is used—in order achieve many other enhanced capabilities at an affordable cost. For instance, packing a laser system and long-range into a 9G tailless, supersonic fighter design may not only be prohibitively expensive, but also wasteful. By giving up maneuverability and high top-speed performance for enhanced stealth and greater fuel and weapons capacity, while relying on lasers instead of maneuverability for self defense, little is lost while much is gained.

Northrop Grumman is not the only big defense aerospace prime contractor that has floated sixth-generation fighter renderings before. Lockheed has touted a design (pictured below) that ironically looks very much like Northrop’s own YF-23 Black Widow, an aircraft that lost to Lockheed’s YF-22 Lightning during theAdvanced Tactical Fighter Competition of the early 1990s.

This design is less exotic than North Grumman’s current offering, and likely puts more of an emphasis on traditional fighter attributes like speed and maneuverability. Still, this does not mean that Lockheed’s F-X or FA-XX offering will look anything like this year’s in the future, that is if these initiatives ever even come close to fruition at all.

This Is Northrop Grumman's Idea Of A Sixth-Generation Fighter, But Is It Feasible?6

The question is, how can the Pentagon even afford such weapon systems in the coming decades? It is almost a certainty that the F-35 purchase, at least for the Air Force and possibly the Navy, will be cut back, potentially drastically, in order to be able to buy the $100 plus million jets in any quantity at all. This will also affect unit cost in a negative way. Since the F-35 procurement plan spans multiple decades, and supposedly will continue on well into the 2030s, where will the money come from for yet another advanced fighter aircraft? Especially considering this one will be even more complex and capable than the F-35 by a large margin.

The F-22 is a great example of this: the jet was very much a package of game-changing technologies like the sixth-generation fighter concept is supposed to be, but due to costs and competing projects, only 187 were built. Today, the F-22 force, although incredibly capable, only has about 125 combat coded jets available, and a large portion of those are down for maintenance at any given time. It is truly a pocket fleet, one that is expensive to sustain due to its small size.

Additionally, even though it is the deadliest fighter in the skies, it lacks key components that were cut do to cost cutting measures and the decision to sink funds into other programs, namely the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. How is the sixth-generation fighter going to be any different? Especially considering the F-35 will still be in production, tightening of budgets and the fact that the cost of fielding new combat aircraft is only going up, not down.

Sadly, if things continue as they are planned, the sixth-generation fighter of the future will likely be an upgraded variant of the F-35, not some clean-sheet whiz bang super-high-end aircraft design.

In fact, I have been leery about discussing the whole “sixth-generation fighter” hype at all because it just sounds silly—almost childish, really, at this point. Not only will it likely be totally unaffordable in light of the F-35 program’s drain on future tactical air combat dollars, but by the time this aircraft would be fielded, unmanned systems will almost certainly dominate the battlefield far more than manned ones. Even some of the Navy’s top brass agrees with this sentiment.

So, what’s going on here? Is this just one more potentially very expensive death throe of the fighter pilot culture that dominates the decision making cycle within our air forces? Or is this whole sixth-generation fighter escapade just a unofficial cover for developing the unmanned systems of the future?

Hopefully it is the latter, as it would be downright alarming if we are still playing the same manned fighter development game 20 years from now. Likely, America’s allies—and enemies, for that matter—will have already moved on.

Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com


Rendering credits: first two images Northrop Grumman, third image via lLockheed/screencap