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Israel’s Submarines Acquisition – Strategy or Greed?


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Israel’s Submarines Acquisition – Strategy or Greed?

INS Rahav undergoing sea trials in the Baltics, 2015. Photo via Israel Navy

Stretched along the eastern Mediterranean Sea and linked to the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Eilat and the Red-Sea, Israel has always strived to maintain a naval force to protect its maritime border and sea lines of communications. Since the 1970s, following repeated terror attacks from the sea, the Israeli Navy assumed the responsibility to combat terror at sea and along the coast. Since the late 2000s, after major discoveries of natural gas reserves offshore, the Navy also added a new role – the security of the country’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) and protection of offshore marine infrastructures.

Since the induction of the Dolphin class submarines in the 2000s, the Israeli Navy also assumed a strategic Deterrent role. According to unconfirmed foreign reports, Israel’s Dolphinclass submarines are equipped with oversized tubes capable of launching nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that can provide the country a retaliatory second strike capability, in case Israel is attacked and its first line of strategic assets – ballistic missiles and attack aircraft – are destroyed by surprise, nuclear attack.

These added responsibilities come with a growing piece of Israel’s defense pie, a larger share of the acquisition budget and more attention at the highest levels in the Ministry of Defense and Prime Minister office. In recent years, senior naval officers were selected for prominent positions in the MOD R&D department (DR&DD), Defense Export Agency (SIBAT), Intelligence agencies (Mossad), the National Security Council (Malal) and major government operated defense companies, to name only a few.

Unlike the air and land forces, that rely heavily on US Foreign Military Sales (FMS), the Navy maintained independent procurement sources in Israel and Europe. Since the 1960s Israel’s Navy surface ships were all constructed in Israel by the Israel Shipyards and IAI. The exception were two Shimrit class hydrofoils built in the USA in the 1980s (and scrapped a few years later), and three Saar V corvettes, constructed in the 1990s in the USA and are in service today.

As for the submarine force, since the late 1960s Israel maintains a fleet of three submarines (which allows the Navy to keep at least two operational subs at any time). The loss of INS Dakar in 1968 left the Navy with only two subs for eight years, until the first Type 209 Gal class submarine 1976 was launched. Type 209 were the first subs designed and built specifically for the Israeli requirements by the German submarine designer Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), although these boats were built in the UK.

The Israel Navy maintained close relations with HDW in the following years, with the design and construction of a larger class subs – the Dolphin. These submarines were built in Kiel in Germany and provided a significant boost strengthening the German shipyard.

The acquisition cycles of Israeli submarines accelerated over time. From 20 years between the Gal and Dolphin generation, the period reduced to 12-16 years between Dolphin I and Dolphin II (AIP). The reduced cycle means the Israel Navy can now operate several submarines simultaneously, while the other are undergoing heavy maintenance. The recent decision to buy three additional, yet unnamed submarines in the next ten years sets the next cycle at only 10-13 years, from the current buy, maintaining Israel’s capability to operate four submarines simultaneously through the 2030s.

What is the rush? Why does Israel require such increased capability?

The simple answer: increased operational tempo that evolved with the growing operations of naval forces in the area; however, this argument is weak. The ongoing peace with Egypt, the Syrian Civil War and crippled state of Libya all mean reduced threat to Israel’s security, at least from the symmetric, naval side.

However, the Iranian threat is growing. The reasonable need to maintain long-range deterrence patrols added new missions to Israel’s submarine force. According to foreign sources, Israel’s submarines carry cruise missiles that can attack targets at ranges beyond 1,000 miles. While such missiles could hit targets in western Iran, when launched from the Eastern Mediterranean, the Israeli subs could hold the entire territory of Iran at risk, from positions in the Indian Ocean or inside the Persian Gulf.

Israel would likely keep these patrols secret and avoid sailing in the Suez Canal, thus sending its subs on voyages that would take weeks, through the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Once one operational submarine is committed to such extended patrols, the Navy would likely require two boats for missions in the Mediterranean.

Such arguments would likely be part of the rhetoric used by Israel’s leadership, arguing for the increase of the nation’s submarine force to six, even nine boats. However, this recommendation faced stiff opposition from the Ministry of Defense, due to the high acquisition and operational cost (€500 – 650 million per boat) competing with other priorities. The resignation of Defense Minister Ya’alon from office paved the way for the submarine deal to continue.

But there is another side of the coin – the German side. As explained above, the Israeli Navy has been a loyal and regular client of the HDW shipyard in Kiel, which is now part of the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) industrial conglomerate. These close relations are likely to continue – despite the revelations that Iranian and UAE corporations have minority holding in it. Notwithstanding these ties, Israel and Germany have signed a contract worth €430 million to build four Saar VI Magen stealth corvettes, based on the German Blohm & Voss designed Classe 130. Soon to be launched third Dolphin II class submarine – Dakar is also a major undertaking soon expected in Kiel.

But the workload at the shipyards has diminished dramatically in recent years. As Type 212 deliveries to the German and Italian Navies completed and construction of Type 214 designs moved overseas, the shipyard will be under pressure to lay off part of its workforce. These hands are critical to maintaining the skills and know-how for the two Type 218SG submarines on contract for the Singapore Navy (the first slated for delivery in three years). Earlier in 2016 TKMS management still hoped to win an A$36 Billion mega-deal in Australia, but after losing this opportunity, the submarine shipyards are striving for a sustainable business for the remaining of the next decade. The prospects for the near term are slim – a future submarine support program in Peru and shortlisting as one of two bidders in Norway. Hence, reaffirming Israel’s commitment to buy three submarines in the future would be a life saver for the crippled shipyard, even if it means a long term prospect.

The decision to proceed with a memorandum of agreement between the Governments of Israel and Germany at this stage is understandable and serves the interests of both sides. But the attempts on both sides to cover the deal are wrong.

Prime Minister Netanyahu claim that the decision is a matter of national security is true but, setting all strategic arguments aside, these moves should be managed by Government officials and diplomats, not by sales agents or private counselors. Furthermore, the investigation of the former deputy of Israel’s National Security Council, who was an active supporter of the submarine deal, adds an unpleasant odor of corruption to the top of Israel’s national security pyramid.

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Israel readies for ‘super-tech’ stealth fighters


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Mike Smith,AFP Fri, Dec 9 6:27 PM PST

https://www.yahoo.com/news/israel-readies-super-tech-stealth-fighters-022723819.html

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel will on Monday receive its first F-35 stealth fighter jets, hailed as technological marvels whose helmets alone cost more than most people’s homes but criticised for their price and initial flaws.

Built by US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, the first two planes’ arrival in Israel is being welcomed as a major event for the country’s military as it seeks to maintain dominance in the turbulent Middle East.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is to attend the arrival along with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman at the Nevatim air base in the country’s south.

The delivery of the first two of 50 F-35s to be purchased by Israel comes as the years-long development of the most expensive plane in history reaches a critical stage.

While a list of countries have ordered the planes, Israel, which receives more than $3 billion a year in US defence aid, will be the first with an operational F-35 squadron outside the United States.

“I think we don’t fully understand the big advantage of the F-35,” an Israeli air force official said.

“I think it’s going to be learned in the next few months, maybe years. I think it’s a very super-tech airplane.”

Israel has given it the name “Adir” — which means “mighty” in Hebrew. Its first planes are expected to be operational within a year after delivery.

It will be receiving the F-35A model for standard takeoff and landings. The B and C models are for short takeoffs and aircraft carriers.

Among their main features are advanced stealth capabilities to help pilots evade sophisticated missile systems.

The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, or around 1,200 miles per hour (around 1,900 kilometres per hour).

It is unclear if Israel’s planes will be able to deliver nuclear bombs. Israel is believed to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear-armed power, though it has never acknowledged it.

– High-tech helmet –

The ultra-high-tech helmet, at a cost of some $400,000 each, sounds like something out of a science-fiction film.

It includes its own operating system, with data that appears on the helmet visor and is also shared elsewhere.

Thermal and night vision as well as 360-degree views are possible with cameras mounted on the plane.

Israeli firm Elbit Systems has been involved in the helmet’s production.

In Israel, the planes, designed for multiple combat situations, will initially replace a group of ageing F-16s.

They are seen as helping the country maintain its edge in the Middle East, particularly as its main enemy Iran seeks further influence in the region.

“The F-35 has been designed to deal with the most advanced threat systems now being fielded in the Middle East,” Lockheed Martin’s Steve Over told AFP by email.

Israel is especially concerned over whether Iran will seek to develop nuclear weapons by violating the international accord it has signed with world powers aimed at preventing it.

The country is also keeping an eye on Lebanon’s powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah, with which Israel fought a devastating war in 2006.

Beyond that, in neighbouring Syria, Russia has deployed the sophisticated S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft systems as it conducts an air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

– ‘Only game in town’ –

Israel is buying its first 33 jets at an average price of about $110 million (103.5 million euros) each.

The government last month approved the purchase of the remaining 17.

As a comparison, in 2001, Israel agreed to buy 52 additional F-16s from Lockheed Martin at a total cost of $1.3 billion.

While the technology can seem dazzling, there have been questions over whether the plane will be worth the cost.

A list of flaws have been uncovered, including one where pilots who weighed less than 136 pounds (62 kilos) risked being killed by its eject system.

There have also been software bugs and technical glitches, though Lockheed Martin assures such issues have been overcome.

Some in Israel have also said the price of the planes will limit the number that can ultimately be purchased, while losing any in combat will be particularly costly.

There have also been questions over whether upgrades to the air force’s existing fleet could have sufficed.

But the F-35 was “the only game in town” since Israel relies so heavily on US defence aid, said Yiftah Shapir of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“We couldn’t go and buy French or British or Russian,” he said. “When you have an ally like the United States, the United States would not have allowed that.”

In the United States, the air force declared an initial squadron of F-35As ready for combat in August, without giving a timeline for actual combat.

The US Marine Corps in 2015 announced that a first group of F-35Bs had attained initial operational capability, though these too have not yet been used in combat.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas


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The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

image: https://static-ssl.businessinsider.com/image/58347471e02ba75d658b4c68-2400

f 35b uss america ordnance carrier.JPG

US Navy

Ordnance is prepared for an F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft on the amphibious assault ship USS America.

The F-35B Marine variant just completed important developmental tests designed to push the joint strike fighter to it’s limits aboard the US’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS America.

The F-35B proved it can perform its short takeoffs with a variety of weapons loadouts, some of which can be asymmetrical. These tests had been done on land before, but carrier takeoffs are a different beast.

f35b on uss america

An F-35B taxis on the flight deck of USS America on October 31, 2016.
Read more at http://www.businessinsider.co.id/f35b-short-takeoff-uss-america-2016-11/#v3kS7yG64EcDjvp2.99

“There is no way to recreate the conditions that come with being out to sea,” than going out there and testing onboard a carrier, said Gabriella Spehn, a F-35 weapons engineer from the Pax River Integrated Test Force in a Navy statement.

But even at sea aboard the America, which can get up to 25 mph, the F-35B performed as expected.

“As we all know, we can’t choose the battle and the location of the battle, so sometimes we have to go into rough seas with heavy swells, heave, roll, pitch, and crosswinds,” said Royal Air Force squadron leader and F-35 test pilot Andy Edgell.

International partners, like Edgell, participated in the testing onboard. While other nations lack the large deck aircraft carriers that the US has, several other nations, like the UK and Japan, operate smaller carriers that await the F-35B.

“The last couple of days we went and purposely found those nasty conditions and put the jets through those places, and the jet handled fantastically well. So now the external weapons testing should be able to give the fleet a clearance to carry weapons with the rough seas and rough conditions,” Edgell said.

“We know the jet can handle it. A fleet clearance will come — then they can go forth and conduct battle in whatever environment.”

However, another first occurred on board. The America’s weapons department assembled over 100 bombs for the F-35B to carry.

For many of the sailors in the Weapon’s Department of the America, part of a new class of US carriers meant specifically to accommodate the F-35, this was their first chance at actually handling and assembling ordnance.

image: https://static-ssl.businessinsider.com/image/58347454e02ba72a008b5c90-2400

f 35b uss america ordnance carrier 1.JPG

US Navy

Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America and F-35B Lightning II Marine Corps personnel prepare to equip the aircraft with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during flight operations.

“Being able to do this feels like we are supporting the overall scope of what the ship is trying to achieve. Without ordnance, to us, this ship isn’t a warship. This is what we do,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Hung Lee.

According to sailors on board, the team went from building one bomb in four hours, to building 16 in three hours.

After a troubled road filled with cost overruns and setbacks, the F-35B finally appears to be nearing readiness.

Uss america

The amphibious assault ship USS America conducts flight operations while underway to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

Read more at http://www.businessinsider.co.id/f35-uss-america-aircraft-carrier-preparing-dominate-seas-2016-11/#5z8coQV0Ei6Q2ZGB.99

The battle to recapture Mosul


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The battle to recapture Mosul

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/bigpicture/2016/10/19/the-battle-recapture-mosul/GXZKeIxTlCRBajrG0y0bKM/story.html?p1=BP_Headline

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have begun a military offensive to take back the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul. Leaders say liberating this city will be difficult and could take months. More than a million civilians are thought to be trapped in the city that was captured by ISIS two years ago.–By Leanne Burden Seidel
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Smoke rises from Islamic state positions after an airstrike by coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 18. The pace of operations slowed on Tuesday as Iraqi forces began pushing toward larger villages and encountering civilian populations on the second day of a massive operation to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. (Associated Press)
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A man stands in front of a fire from oil that has been set ablaze in the Qayyarah area, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 19, during an operation by Iraqi forces against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists to retake the main hub city. (Yasi Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of Iraqi forces drive their armoured vehicle, as they head to the frontline on Oct. 18 near the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, during the operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces were making gains on the Islamic State group in Mosul in an offensive US President Barack Obama warned would be a “difficult fight”. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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A peshmerga fighter looks out of the entrance of an underground tunnel built by Islamic State fighters, Oct. 18. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. The fighters built tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above to avoid airstrikes. (Bram Janssen/Associated Press)
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Kurdish peshmerga troops fire at Islamic State positions as they move toward the Iraqi town of Badana Pichwk on Oct. 17. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)
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Iraqi soldiers walk on a road as smoke billows from the Qayyarah area, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 19, during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists to retake the main hub city. (Yasi Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area walk towards Iraqi security forces on Oct. 18, after they liberated the village from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of Iraqi forces look at a MRAP armoured vehicle with an image of an American flag overlaid with a bald eagle, at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 18, during the operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of the Iraqi forces inspect a tunnel on Oct. 18, inside a building in the Shaqouli village, about 35 kms east of Mosul, after they’ve recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. With the crucial battle in its second day, Iraqi commanders said progress was being made as fighters pushed on two main fronts against the jihadists’ last stronghold in Iraq (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sunni Arab fighters, many of whom fled Mosul when the Islamic State group captured the city two years ago, wait at their base near the Mosul Dam near Karaj, Iraq, Oct. 18. Their unit is now slated to take part in the liberation of Mosul, which was once home to more than two million residents and is the biggest city captured by the Islamic State group. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)
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Iraqi forces deploy in the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, on Oct.18, after they liberated it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces were making gains on the Islamic State group in Mosul in an offensive US President Barack Obama warned would be a “difficult fight.” (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi soldiers look on as smoke rises from the Qayyarah area, as Iraqi forces take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Yasi Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
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A helicopter prowling the perimeter of the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqis wait at a check point on Oct. 18, near the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, during Iraqi forces’ operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Kurdish security forces take up a position as they fight overlooking the Islamic State-controlled in villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 17. (Associated Press)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area, walk towards Iraqi security forces on Oct. 18. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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A peshmerga fighter walks through a tunnel made by Islamic State fighters, Oct. 18. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. The fighters built tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above in order to avoid airstrikes. (Bram Janssen/Associated Press)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area walk towards security forces on Oct. 18. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighter stands inside of a building on Oct. 18, on the frontline in the Shaqouli village, about 35 kms east of Mosul, after they’ve recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. With the crucial battle in its second day, Iraqi commanders said progress was being made as fighters pushed on two main fronts against the jihadists’ last stronghold in Iraq. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area are helped a security forces member on October 18. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi security forces gesture in Qayyarah, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 19. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters)
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A woman poses at a refugee camp housing Iraqi families who fled fighting in the Mosul area on Oct. 17, in the northeastern town of al-Hol in Syria’s Hasakeh province. The battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from jihadists could unleash a massive humanitarian crisis, potentially pushing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes as winter sets in. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
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A peshmerga fighter walks through the kitchen of an underground tunnel made by Islamic State fighters, Oct. 18. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. (Bram Janssen/Associated press)
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A Kurdish peshmerga soldier talks on his phone as he relaxes in a village recently recaptured from ISIS during the battle to retake Mosul, on Oct. 18, in Bartella, near Mosul in Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Kurdish peshmerga soldiers stand around a tunnel dug by ISIS in a house recently recaptured by the Kurds during the battle to retake Mosul, on Oct. 18, in Bartella, near Mosul in Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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A Kurdish peshmerga soldier stands in a tunnel dug by ISIS in a village recently recaptured by the Kurds during the battle to retake Mosul, on Oct. 18, in Bartella, near Mosul in Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Displaced Iraqi children who fled Mosul play at a refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq, Oct. 16. (Ari Jalal/Reuters)
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Members of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters inspect a building on Oct. 18, in the Shaqouli village, about 35 kms east of Mosul, after they’ve recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
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A Kurdish peshmerga fighter leans out of his military vehicle which has taken several direct hits from ISIS snipers including on the windscreen on Oct. 18, in the small town of Bartella near Mosul, Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers inspect the body of an alleged Islamic State (IS) fighter in the recently recaptured city of Hamdaniyah, east of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 18. (Ahmed Jalil/EPA)
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A French army Rafale fighter jet takes off from the deck of France’s aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, in the Meditarranean Sea. Seven French Rafale jets, from the Air Force and the Navy, carried out airstrikes south of Mosul overnight on Oct. 15-16 with SCALP missiles that destroyed a factory making IEDs (improvised explosive devices.) (ECPAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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A child stands in front of makeshift tents at a refugee camp housing Iraqi families who fled fighting in the Mosul area on Oct. 17, in the northeastern town of al-Hol in Syria’s Hasakeh province. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
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Peshmerga forces gather in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 17. (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)
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An Iraqi policeman tries on a gasmask at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 16, as they prepare for an offensive to retake Mosul, the last IS-held city in the country. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on Oct. 17. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

10 Misconceptions About Military Drones


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10 Misconceptions About Military Drones

JONATHAN H. KANTOR AUGUST 27, 2016

10 Misconceptions About Military Drones

Military drones have garnered a great deal of attention over the years since the 9/11 bombings, but they’re very misunderstood. While some reports accurately describe how they’re used in combat, many stories portray misconceptions that are outlandish and not supported by facts. Here are ten of the most common misconceptions about military drones.

Featured image credit: Lance Cheung, US Air Force

10They’re Called ‘Drones’

Reaper UAV Flight

Almost everyone refers to a military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle/System (UAV/S) as a drone, but that is a misnomer which is insulting to their pilots. (Yes, they have pilots.) The word “drone” is most often associated with a low humming sound, which is one of the reasons that male bees are called drones. Using the word “drone” to describe the complex systems put in place on today’s battlefields can be incongruous with military jargon and insulting to the operators.

“Drone” implies a lack of involvement by an expert operator, so the term isn’t widely used in the military. Outside the military, the word “drone” is most often associated with quadcopters, remote-controlled small aircraft used by hobbyists for various activities, including racing, aerial photography, and general fun.

 

9They’re New To Warfare

Venice Balloon Bombs

Photo credit: Prof. Jurij Drushnin via Monash University

UAVs aren’t new to warfare, but it might surprise you to learn that they were first used in the 19th century! Austrian forces attacking Italy in 1849 approached the city of Venice armed with 200 balloons. These balloons were armed with bombs controlled by timed fuses. They weren’t entirely successful, as many of them were blown by the wind back over the Austrian lines before they exploded, but several did explode over their targets. This is the first instance of pilotless aircraft being used in warfare.

Since that time, remotely operated aircraft have been developed and used throughout warfare. Until GPS became a widespread technology, allowing for satellite-controlled aircraft anywhere in the world, most were operated remotely via radio. This included radio-guided bombs among other types of weapon systems.

8They Require Few People To Operate Them

Reaper Maintenance

Photo credit: US Air Force

One of the biggest downsides to manned aircraft is the total number of people required to operate them. You have pilots, copilots, and onboard crew, depending on the type of vehicle. You also have the people required to fuel the vehicle, move it, maintain and repair it, and even store it when not in use.

UAVs are no different. In fact, they require more people to operate them than most manned vehicles. In addition to the people needed to maintain the aircraft and fly it, there are operators for each of the sensors and cameras onboard. To compare, an F-16 requires approximately 100 people for it to operate, while a Predator requires 168 and a Reaper requires 180.

 

7They Rarely Crash And Require Minimal Upkeep

Crashed UAV

Photo credit: US Air Force via The Washington Post

Upkeep of any military aircraft is expensive, and UAVs are no different in this regard. One major problem UAVs have is that they tend to crash . . . a lot. This is certainly preferable to losing a manned aircraft, since that requires a search and rescue operation to recover the pilot(s), while a crashed UAV doesn’t. Of course, the military isn’t generally satisfied with letting their technology fall into their enemy’s hands, so a crashed UAV often still requires a mission to recover or destroy the downed vehicle.

UAV crashes have been on the rise since 2004, possibly due to the increase in operational hours and an overtaxing of the available systems being used in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2004, there were only nine crashes, while the number jumped to 26 in 2012. Very few crashes are the result of hostile action against the vehicle and most drop out of the sky for unknown (or unreleased) reasons.

6Jamming Their Communications Will Bring Them Down

iStock_39732518_SMALL
Most UAVs use a satellite uplink, which is very difficult to jam. The waves are a very narrow beam pointing up toward the satellites, so jamming them from the ground is very difficult, though not impossible. If a drone’s communication is jammed, it switches to autopilot until it can regain communications with its host.

Commercial drones are much easier to jam, since they tend to work via radio communications, so an increase of energy on their operating frequency tends to take them out. When it comes to military UAVs, jamming is much less common.

Communications jamming is a dangerous enterprise due to the high amount of power needed to operate the equipment. There are several products and DIY projects people can find on the Internet to build “jamming rifles” if they feel that they need or want to jam a commercial drone, though we do not advise doing this.

5They Can Only Remain Airborne For A Short Period Of Time

Predator UAV Flight

This misconception might be due to the comparatively short-duration flights that commercial drones are capable of maintaining. Most commercial quadcopters can remain airborne for 15 minutes, with very few topping at twice that time. The main reason for this is simply energy storage and consumption. Most commercial drones are small and powered via an onboard battery. Almost all UAVs, however, carry fuel like any aircraft. Because of this, they can remain airborne and operational for much longer than their commercial counterparts.

The Predator, which is one of the most utilized UAVs in combat, has a flight time of approximately 27 hours, with a future upgrade with a cap of 40 hours projected to hit the battlefield in 2018. Another recently designed aircraft called the Global Observer Stratospheric Persistent UAS is able to fly for a period of 168 hours due to its high operating altitude of 20,000 meters (65,000 ft) and its use of liquid hydrogen for fuel.

 

4Anyone Can Operate A Drone (Like A Video Game)

UAV Piloting

While it might be true that a good video game player could make a good UAV operator, that doesn’t necessarily work in reverse. Most UAV pilots would resent this notion, and many have gone on record detailing how it is not at all like a video game. Most UAVs in operation in the military are as complicated to fly as any other aircraft and require a highly trained and skilled pilot to fly them. While some games can duplicate this to some degree, very few people who are good at playing Microsoft Flight Simulator can sit in a cockpit for eight hours without a break.

Another comparison that separates the two is that a UAV pilot may be called on to attack and destroy a target, which might very well be a living, breathing person. No video game can approximate what a person has to go through to accomplish that mission.

3They Have ‘Kill Lists’

Predator Sensor

Photo credit: Michael Pereckas

The primary mission for nearly all UAVs is reconnaissance and force protection. When in operation, they essentially amount to “eyes in the sky” and are used to ensure the safety of personnel operating on the ground. That isn’t to say that drones aren’t armed and used to engage targets; they do, but that’s not their primary mission. As such, they do not operate with “kill lists” naming targets that are to be engaged if found.

In order for a UAV to fire on any target, it first has to be identified and vetted, and then a decision is made by the ground commander whether or not to fire. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made as with piloted aircraft, and civilian targets have been engaged by mistake. This has led many to believe that UAVs have “kill lists” that allow them to engage a target whenever identified, regardless of the situation.

The military does maintain lists of High-Value Targets, but these are not loaded onto aircraft and seen as targets of opportunity. Rather, the lists drive mission planning in operational pursuit of a target, which may or may not involve a UAV.

2They’re Autonomous

Predator Pilots

As detailed above, almost all UAVs require highly skilled operators to pilot and utilize their various systems. Because of this, they cannot be considered autonomous, though some flight operations are handled by computers much like autopilot operations on a commercial aircraft.

While it can be said that the military does not operate autonomous killing robots as many may believe, that isn’t to say that they aren’t developing exactly that for future operations. Currently, the US Navy and Army areresearching autonomous drones due to a lack of pilots, and DARPA has commissioned a study to try to develop packs of six aircraft that would “Collaborate to find, track, identify, and engage targets.” Perhaps Sarah Connor was right . . .

1They’re All Armed And Designed To Kill

Pioneer UAV

Most UAVs operated by the US Military, which has more than 7,000, are designed and used for some form of aerial reconnaissance or surveillance. The Predator was designed for this and wasn’t armed until well into the conflict with Iraq. Fleets of smaller aircraft have never been and likely will never be armed due to their size and other uses.

While this remains a common misconception today, the future is less certain. Most countries are developing UAVs specifically for combat roles. In 2013, Boeing was able to retrofit an F-16, which normally requires two people to operate, to fly completely unmanned. Removing personnel from the cockpit allows the vehicle to achieve up to 9Gs, which would be incredibly dangerous for a person.

Beyond this, UAV helicopters with mounted miniguns have been in development as well as stealth aircraft and all sorts of weapon systems. The future of UAV warfare seems to be leaning toward making this misconception a reality.

Israel Develops a Highly Protected APC to Replace Thousands of M-113 ‘Tin Cans’


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Israel Develops a Highly Protected APC to Replace Thousands of M-113 ‘Tin Cans’

Israel’s Ministry of Defense unveiled today the first prototype of the Eitan, a new 8×8 armored personnel carrier developed by the Ministry’s Tank Development Program Directorate (Mantak), as a possible successor for thousands of American-made M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) Israel has been operating since the 1970s. The new APC is said to be more protected, efficient and affordable than foreign off-the-shelf alternatives, and would be available at half the cost of the Israeli Namer Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV).

The Israeli prototype is based on a proven automotive system, with an operationally proven powertrain that has been adopted by several armed forces in Europe. According to the head of Mantak, Brig. General Baruch Mazliah, using commercially available automotive components enabled the designers to develop an APC that will cost half as the tracked Namer, and less than similar wheeled APCs available in the world market. The hull was developed in the country, along with the weapon systems, survivability and protection systems used. According to Mazliah, the need for a wheeled armored vehicle such as Eitanevolved from lessons learned in recent combat operations in Gaza. The Eitan complements the Merkava and Namer, as it can transport infantry squads on roads, without relying on tank transporters. Eitan has a maximum road speed of +90 km/h (56 mp/h).

Similar to Merkava and Namer, Eitan does not rely only on ballistic armor for protection but uses a combination of survivability systems for to enhance the survival of the crew, passengers, and the entire vehicle. Designed for a gross vehicle weight of up to 35 tons (77,000 pounds), Eitan provides sufficient base protection for common battlefield threats. Using the Trophy Active Protection Systems (APS), the vehicle can effectively avoid high-level threats without proportionally increasing the weight of its armor. To protect the occupants from blast effects, of mines and IEDs, Eitan has been designed with protected, relatively high floor. The tyres are fitted with runflat inserts meaning they can continue to function even after suffering multiple hits. The passive protection provided by modular armor is applied to the vehicle’s front and sides, while equipment modules add to its security. The vehicle will be initially produced at the Israel MOD AFV plant, at an annual production rate of several dozens of vehicles, as is the case with the Namer ICV.

Israel's new Eitan 8x8 wheeled armored personnelo carrier has entered developmental testing. Two more prototypes are in production and will begin testing soon. Photo: Israel MOD
Israel’s new Eitan 8×8 wheeled armored personnelo carrier has entered developmental testing. Two more prototypes are in production and will begin testing soon. Photo: Israel MOD

The vehicle is designed as a common, modular platform that can be configured into different variants by replacing hull modules. Variants typically include APC and command vehicles equipped with remotely operated .50 Cal machine gun, and weapon carriers, to be fitted with remotely operated turrets mounting 30/40mm automatic cannon. The turret will also have accommodation for several missile launchers. The prototype shows clean surfaces enabling relatively uninterrupted 360-degree coverage for the weapon station and APS.

A crew of three – commander, gunner and driver operate the vehicle. Each of the crew members has an individual, role-optimized operation position, seat and access hatch. The vehicle is designed to carry a full squad of nine troops in its fighting compartment. Troops can access and egress via the rear ramp door.

Eitan is different than other 8×8 APCs designed for NATO forces, in its suitability to the unique operational conditions of the Israeli forces. While most 8×8 APCs evolved from lighter platforms, the Israeli APC was designed from scratch for 30-35 tons, which is the upper limit of similar designs. All 8×8s are designed for similar roles – they are designed as modular, role configurable platforms, in a weight range of 18-30 tons, each carrying 8-11 troops.

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US Army and Marine Corps PowerWalk into wearable battery trials


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US Army and Marine Corps PowerWalk into wearable battery trials

http://www.gizmag.com/wearable-battery-trial-us-army-marines/43576/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

Bionic Power is teaming up with the US Army and Marine Corps to conduct field trials ...

Bionic Power is teaming up with the US Army and Marine Corps to conduct field trials of PowerWalk.

Development of piezoelectric and triboelectric generators that harvest the kinetic energy generated by movement has been gaining momentum over the past few years, and now the US Army and Marine Corps are taking the technology into the field. Vancouver-based Bionic Power will soon supply troops with its PowerWalk Kinetic Energy Harvester, a lightweight device worn around the knee that recharges batteries while soldiers walk.

Two PowerWalk devices can produce an average of 10 to 12 watts

Two PowerWalk devices can produce an average of 10 to 12 watts

The PowerWalk features a gearbox that mechanically converts the knee’s rotation speed into a higher speed that is more efficient for the onboard power generator to then convert to electrical power. The result is 10 to 12 watts of electricity, which is itself then converted to charge Li-ion or NiMH batteries.

Wearing a PowerWalk on each leg, users can apparently generate enough electricity to charge four smartphones after an hour of walking at a reasonable pace. The PowerWalk is also able to analyze the wearer’s gait to determine the most efficient time to generate power, and Bionic Power claims a secondary benefit of reducing muscle fatigue during downhill walking, lowering the risk of knee injury.

The PowerWalk kinetic energy harvester wraps around the knee and recharges batteries while soldiers walk

The PowerWalk kinetic energy harvester wraps around the knee and recharges batteries while soldiers walk

The applications for the military are clear. Electricity is vital in the field, with communications, navigation and optics devices all requiring power, which usually involves carrying heavy battery packs.

“A soldier typically carries 16 to 20 lbs (7 to 9 kg) in batteries on a 72-hour mission,” says Noel Soto, US Army Systems Engineer. “If a soldier can generate power with wearable energy-harvesting devices, it means we can not only reduce the weight on his or her back, we also minimize the unit’s reliance on field resupply, making it possible for us to extend the duration and effectiveness of a mission.”

The US Army and US Marine Corps will begin field trials of the PowerWalk in 2017

The US Army and US Marine Corps will begin field trials of the PowerWalk in 2017

The contract between Bionic Power and the US Army and Marine Corps will see PowerWalk units tested in the field in early to mid-2017. Beyond that, Bionic Power hopes to bring the device to other professional and general consumer markets.

The PowerWalk kinetic energy harvester wraps around the knee and recharges batteries while soldiers walk

The PowerWalk kinetic energy harvester wraps around the knee and recharges batteries while soldiers walk

Two PowerWalk devices can produce an average of 10 to 12 watts

Two PowerWalk devices can produce an average of 10 to 12 watts

The PowerWalk device is designed to lessen the need for soldiers to carry bulky batteries

The PowerWalk device is designed to lessen the need for soldiers to carry bulky batteries

Source: Bionic Power