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Monday, September 19, 2016

The Tactical Blog from Cactus Tactical

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Part I

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan

In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 


Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 


For our twelfth installment let's take a look at the most common Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) of the war in Afghanistan. These can be anything from surveillance and Reconnaissance UAVs, to UAVs armed with precision-guided munitions. UAVs have played a larger role in the modern conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Global War on Terror overall.





Part I: The United States


RQ-5 Hunter
The IAI RQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was originally intended to serve as the United States Army's Short Range UAV system for division and corps commanders. It took off and landed (using arresting gear) on runways. It used a gimbaled EO/IR sensor to relay its video in real time via a second airborne Hunter over a C-band line-of-sight data link. The RQ-5 is based on the Hunter UAV that was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries.

In 1995, A Company, 15th Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation) out of Fort Hood, TX was the first Army field unit equipped with the Hunter. A Company conducted multiple successful training rotations to the National Training Center. Then in March 1999, they were deployed to the Republic of Macedonia in support of NATO operations in Kosovo. During the 7 month operation, the Hunter was flown over 4,000 hours. Significant operational success in Kosovo led to resumption of production and technical improvements. Hunter was used in Iraq and other military operations since then. A version armed with the Northrop Grumman GBU-44/B Viper Strike weapon system is known as the MQ-5A/B.

As of October 2012, the U.S. Army had 20 MQ-5B Hunters in service. Retirement of the Hunter was expected to be completed in 2013, but Northrop was awarded a support contract for the Hunter in January 2013, extending its missions into 2014.

On 16 December 2015, the Hunter flew its final flight in Army service at Fort Hood. Since entering service in 1995, the aircraft had been deployed to the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was deployed to the Balkans four times between 1999 and 2002, accumulating 6,400 flight hours, and was the first Army UAS to cross into Iraq in 2003, proving itself for the first time in contingency operations as an intelligence asset to commanders at all levels and flying more hours than any other NATO reconnaissance platform. One capability unique to the Hunter was its relay mode that allowed one aircraft to control another at extended ranges or over terrain obstacles. By the end of Operation New Dawn in 2011, Hunters had flown more than 110,000 hours, its battlefield success clearly showing the value of UASs in combat operations as a direct result. While Army operators transitioned to the larger and more capable MQ-1C Gray Eagle, the Hunter is being transferred to government-owned, contractor-operated units supporting operations overseas.




RQ-7 Shadow
The AAI RQ-7 Shadow is an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the United States Army and Marine Corps for reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and battle damage assessment. Launched from a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult, it is recovered with the aid of arresting gear similar to jets on an aircraft carrier. Its gimbal-mounted, digitally stabilized, liquid nitrogen-cooled electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera relays video in real time via a C-band line-of-sight data link to the ground control station (GCS).

The US Army's 2nd Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, trains soldiers, marines, and civilians in the operation and maintenance of the Shadow UAV.

The RQ-7 Shadow is the result of a continued US Army search for an effective battlefield UAV after the cancellation of the Alliant RQ-6 Outrider aircraft. AAI Corporation followed up their RQ-2 Pioneer with the Shadow 200, a similar, more refined UAV. In late 1999, the army selected the Shadow 200 to fill the tactical UAV requirement, redesignating it the RQ-7. Army requirements specified a UAV that used a gasoline engine, could carry an electro-optic/infrared imaging sensor turret, and had a minimum range of 31 miles with four-hour, on-station endurance. The Shadow 200 offered at least twice that range, powered by a 38 hp rotary engine. The specifications also dictated that UAV would be able to land in an athletic field.

By July 2007, the Shadow platform accumulated 200,000 flight hours, doubling its previous record of 100,000 hours in 13 months. The system then surpassed 300,000 flight hours in April 2008, and by May 2010, the Shadow system had accumulated over 500,000 flight hours. As of 2011, the Shadow had logged over 709,000 hours. The Shadow platform has flown over 37,000 sorties in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by US Army and Army National Guard units. On 6 August 2012, AAI announced that the Shadow had achieved 750,000 flight hours during more than 173,000 missions. More than 900,000 flight hours had been logged by Shadow UAVs by the end of June 2014.

The U.S. Army is implementing a plan to reform its aerial scout capabilities by scrapping its fleet of OH-58 Kiowa helicopters from 2015–2019 and replacing them with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters teamed with Shadow and MQ-1C Grey Eagle UAVs. Using unmanned assets to scout ahead would put the pilots of manned aircraft out of reach of potential harm. Reformed combat aviation brigades (CAB) would consist of a battalion of 24 Apaches for attack missions and an armed reconnaissance squadron of another 24 Apaches teamed with three Shadow platoons totaling 12 RQ-7s overall; it would also include a Grey Eagle company. The manned-unmanned teaming of Apaches and UAVs can meet 80 percent of aerial scout requirements. On 16 March 2015, the 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment was reflagged the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, making it the first of 10 Apache battalions to be converted to a heavy attack reconnaissance squadron by eliminating the Kiowa scout helicopter and having three RQ-7 Shadow platoons organically assigned; the attack battalions will also be aligned with an MQ-1C Gray Eagle company assigned to each division. Moving Shadows from brigade combat team level to the battalions themselves reduces lines of communication, distance issues, and allows operators and pilots to better train and work together.




RQ-11 Raven
The AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven is a small hand-launched remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle developed for the United States military, but now adopted by the military forces of many other countries.

The RQ-11 Raven was originally introduced as the FQM-151 in 1999, but in 2002 developed into its current form, resembling an enlarged FAI class F1C free flight model aircraft in general appearance. The craft is launched by hand and powered by a pusher configuration electric motor. The plane can fly up to 6.2 miles at altitudes of appx 500 feet above ground level, and over 15,000 feet above mean sea level, at flying speeds of 28–60 mph.

The Raven RQ-11B UAV system is manufactured by AeroVironment. It was the winner of the US Army's SUAV program in 2005, and went into Full-Rate Production in 2006. Shortly afterwards, it was also adopted by the US Marines, and the US Air Force for their ongoing FPASS Program. More than 19,000 Raven airframes have been delivered to customers worldwide to date. A new Digital Data Link-enabled version of Raven now in production for US Forces and allies has improved endurance, among many other improvements.

The Raven can be either remotely controlled from the ground station or fly completely autonomous missions using GPS waypoint navigation. The UAV can be ordered to immediately return to its launch point simply by pressing a single command button. Standard mission payloads include CCD color video cameras and an infrared night vision camera.

The RQ-11B Raven UAV weighs about 4.2 lb, has a flight endurance of 60–90 minutes and an effective operational radius of approximately 6.2 miles.

The RQ-11B Raven UAV is launched by hand, thrown into the air like a free flight model airplane. The Raven lands itself by auto-piloting to a pre-defined landing point and then performing a 45° slope (1 foot down for every 1 foot forward) controlled "Autoland" descent. The UAV can provide day or night aerial intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance.

In mid-2015, the U.S. Marine Corps tested Harris Corporation's Small Secure Data Link (SSDL), a radio device that fits onto a Raven's nose to provide beyond line-of-sight communications for Marines down to squad level. Acting as communications nodes for ground forces has become an important function for UAVs, but has been restricted to larger platforms like the RQ-4 Global Hawk or RQ-21 Blackjack. Being certified for 'Secret' classification and at just 25 cubic inches (measuring 3 in × 5.3 in × 1.6 in) and weighing 18 oz, the Harris SSDL allows the small Raven UAV to extend communications for troops in the field.

In August 2015, selected units began receiving upgrades to their Raven sensors. The Raven Gimbal is a rotating camera with a 360-degree gimbal, which replaces the fixed camera that required maneuvering the entire aircraft to look. The new camera can also be switched between day and night settings without landing and swapping sensors.




MQ-1 Predator
The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by General Atomics and used primarily by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Initially conceived in the early 1990s for aerial reconnaissance and forward observation roles, the Predator carries cameras and other sensors but has been modified and upgraded to carry and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or other munitions. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat in war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the NATO intervention in Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq War, Yemen, Libyan civil war, the intervention in Syria, and Somalia.

The USAF describes the Predator as a "Tier II" MALE UAS (medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system). The UAS consists of four aircraft or "air vehicles" with sensors, a ground control station (GCS), and a primary satellite link communication suite. Powered by a Rotax engine and driven by a propeller, the air vehicle can fly up to 400 nmi (460 mi) to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base.

On 16 February 2001 at Nellis Air Force Base, a Predator successfully fired three Hellfire AGM-114C missiles into a target. The newly armed Predators were given the designation of MQ-1A.

Following 2001, the RQ-1 Predator became the primary unmanned aircraft used for offensive operations by the USAF and the CIA in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas; it has also been deployed elsewhere.

In 2002, the USAF officially changed the designation to MQ-1 ("M" for multi-role) to reflect its growing use as an armed aircraft.

On 4 March 2002, a CIA-operated Predator fired a Hellfire missile into a reinforced Taliban machine gun bunker that had pinned down an Army Ranger team whose CH-47 Chinook had crashed on the top of Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan. Previous attempts by flights of F-15 and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft were unable to destroy the bunker. This action took place during what has become known as the "Battle of Roberts Ridge", a part of Operation Anaconda. This appears to be the first use of such a weapon in a close air support role.

As of March 2009, the U.S. Air Force had 195 MQ-1 Predators in operation. Predators and Reapers fired missiles 244 times in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. A report in March 2009 indicated that U.S. Air Force had lost 70 Predators in air crashes during its operational history. Fifty-five were lost to equipment failure, operator error, or weather. Four have been shot down in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Iraq. Eleven more were lost to operational accidents on combat missions. In 2012, the Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk were described as "... the most accident-prone aircraft in the Air Force fleet."

On 3 March 2011, the U.S. Air Force took delivery of its last MQ-1 Predator in a ceremony at General Atomics' flight operations facility. Since its first flight in July 1994, the MQ-1 series has accumulated over 1,000,000 flight hours and maintained a fleet fully mission capable rate over 90 percent.

On 6 April 2011, the Predator had its first friendly fire incident when observers at a remote location did not relay their doubts about the target to the operators at Creech Air Force Base.

On 5 May 2013, an MQ-1 Predator surpassed 20,000 flight hours over Afghanistan by a single Predator. Predator P107 achieved the milestone while flying a 21-hour combat mission; P107 was first delivered in October 2004.

On 22 October 2013, the U.S. Air Force's fleets of MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft reached 2,000,000 flight hours. The RPA program began in the mid-1990s, taking 16 years for them to reach 1 million flight hours. The 2 million hour mark was reached just two and a half years after that.


To Be Continued...















Shawn Garlow in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.










For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:
http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/Active_FM.html
http://world.guns.ru/index-e.html
https://en.wikipedia.org
http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/



For Use of Photos by Shawn Garlow
Contact: garlow.co@gmail.com

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nordic Components by Cactus Tactical

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Tactical Blog from Cactus Tactical

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Fixed-wing aircraft, Part III

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan
Bagram Airfield, near Kabul, Afghanistan.

In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 


Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 


For our eleventh installment let's take a look at the most common fixed-wing aircraft of the war in Afghanistan. These can be anything from supply & Transport aircraft, to fighter jets and bombers. Fixed-wing aircraft play a large part in the war, dropping precision munitions on enemy ground targets designated by friendlies on the ground.




Part III: The United States (Continued)

C-17 Globemaster III
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft. It was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) from the 1980s to the early 1990s by McDonnell Douglas. The C-17 carries forward the name of two previous piston-engined military cargo aircraft, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster and the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II. The C-17 commonly performs tactical and strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; additional roles include medical evacuation and airdrop duties. It was designed to replace the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, and also fulfill some of the duties of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, freeing the C-5 fleet for outsize cargo.

Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s, continued to manufacture C-17s for export customers following the end of deliveries to the U.S. Air Force. Aside from the United States, the C-17 is in service with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, NATO Heavy Airlift Wing, India, and Kuwait. The final C-17 was completed at the Long Beach, California, plant and flown on 29 November 2015.

The C-17 is 174 feet long and has a wingspan of about 170 feet. It can airlift cargo fairly close to a battle area. The size and weight of U.S. mechanized firepower and equipment have grown in recent decades from increased air mobility requirements, particularly for large or heavy non-palletized outsize cargo.

The C-17 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines, which are based on the commercial Pratt and Whitney PW2040 used on the Boeing 757. Each engine is rated at 40,400 lbf of thrust. The engine's thrust reversers direct engine exhaust air upwards and forward, reducing the chances of foreign object damage by ingestion of runway debris, and providing enough reverse thrust to back the aircraft up on the ground while taxiing. The thrust reversers can also be used in flight at idle-reverse for added drag in maximum-rate descents. In vortex surfing tests performed by C-17s, up to 10% fuel savings were reported.

For cargo operations the C-17 requires a crew of three: pilot, copilot, and loadmaster. The cargo compartment is 88 feet long by 18 feet wide by 12 feet 4 inches high. The cargo floor has rollers for palletized cargo but it can be flipped to provide a flat floor suitable for vehicles and other rolling stock. Cargo is loaded through a large aft ramp that accommodates rolling stock, such as a 69-ton M1 Abrams main battle tank, other armored vehicles, trucks, and trailers, along with palletized cargo.

Maximum payload of the C-17 is 170,900 lb, and its maximum takeoff weight is 585,000 lb. With a payload of 160,000 lb and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 ft, the C-17 has an unrefueled range of about 2,400 nautical miles on the first 71 aircraft, and 2,800 nautical miles on all subsequent extended-range models that include a sealed center wing bay as a fuel tank. Boeing informally calls these aircraft the C-17 ER. The C-17's cruise speed is about 450 knots (Mach 0.74). It is designed to airdrop 102 paratroopers and their equipment.

The C-17 is designed to operate from runways as short as 3,500 ft and as narrow as 90 ft. In addition, the C-17 can operate from unpaved, unimproved runways (although with greater chance of damage to the aircraft). The thrust reversers can be used to move the aircraft backwards and reverse direction on narrow taxiways using a three- (or more) point turn. The plane is designed for 20 man-hours of maintenance per flight hour, and a 74% mission availability rate.




F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
The Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet and related twin-seat F/A-18F are twin-engine carrier-capable multirole fighter aircraft variants based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F tandem-seat variants are larger and more advanced derivatives of the F/A-18C and D Hornet. The Super Hornet has an internal 20 mm M61 rotary cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons. Additional fuel can be carried in up to five external fuel tanks and the aircraft can be configured as an airborne tanker by adding an external air refueling system.

Designed and initially produced by McDonnell Douglas, the Super Hornet first flew in 1995. Full-rate production began in September 1997, after the merger of McDonnell Douglas and Boeing the previous month. The Super Hornet entered service with the United States Navy in 1999, replacing the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, which was retired in 2006; the Super Hornet serves alongside the original Hornet. 

The Hornet and Super Hornet share many characteristics, including avionics, ejection seats, radar, armament, mission computer software, and maintenance/operating procedures. The Super Hornet is largely a new aircraft at about 20% larger, 7,000 lb heavier empty weight, and 15,000 lb heavier maximum weight than the original Hornet. The Super Hornet carries 33% more internal fuel, increasing mission range by 41% and endurance by 50% over the "Legacy" Hornet. The empty weight of the Super Hornet is about 11,000 lb less than that of the F-14 Tomcat which it replaced, while approaching, but not matching, the F-14's payload and range. As the Super Hornet is significantly heavier than the "legacy" Hornet, the catapult and arresting systems must be set differently. To aid safe flight operations and prevent confusion in radio calls, the Super Hornet is informally referred to as the "Rhino" to distinguish it from earlier Hornets.

The Super Hornet, unlike the previous Hornet, is designed so it can be equipped with an aerial refueling system (ARS) or "buddy store" for the refueling of other aircraft, filling the tactical airborne tanker role the Navy had lost with the retirement of the KA-6D and Lockheed S-3B Viking tankers. The ARS includes an external 330 US gal tank with hose reel on the centerline, along with four external 480 US gal tanks and internal tanks, for a total of 29,000 lb of fuel on the aircraft. On typical missions a fifth of the air wing is dedicated to the tanker role, which consumes aircraft fatigue life expectancy faster than other missions.

On 8 September 2006, VFA-211 F/A-18F Super Hornets expended GBU-12 and GBU-38 bombs against Taliban fighters and Taliban fortifications west and northwest of Kandahar. This was the first time the unit had participated in an active combat capacity using the Super Hornet.

During the 2006–2007 cruise with Dwight D. Eisenhower, VFA-103 and VFA-143 supported Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and operations off the Somali coast. Alongside "Legacy Hornet" squadrons, VFA-131 and VFA-83, they dropped 140 precision guided weapons and performed nearly 70 strafing runs.




C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medevac, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile airframe has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol, and aerial firefighting. It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over forty models and variants of the Hercules, including a civilian one marketed as Lockheed L-100, operate in more than sixty nations.

The C-130 entered service with the U.S. in the 1950s, followed by Australia and others. During its years of service, the Hercules family has participated in numerous military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations. In 2007, the C-130 became the fifth aircraft—after the English Electric Canberra, B-52 Stratofortress, Tu-95, and KC-135 Stratotanker—to mark 50 years of continuous service with its original primary customer, in this case, the United States Air Force. The C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously produced military aircraft at over 60 years, with the updated Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules being produced today.

During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the ongoing support of the International Security Assistance Force (Operation Enduring Freedom), the C-130 Hercules has been used operationally by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the United States.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom), the C-130 Hercules was used operationally by Australia, the UK and the United States. After the initial invasion, C-130 operators as part of the Multinational force in Iraq used their C-130s to support their forces in Iraq.

Since 2004, the Pakistan Air Force has employed C-130s in the War in North-West Pakistan. Some variants had forward looking infrared (FLIR Systems Star Safire III EO/IR) sensor balls, to enable close tracking of Islamist militants.




C-130J Super Hercules
The Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. The C-130J is a comprehensive update of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, with new engines, flight deck, and other systems. The Hercules family has the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history. During more than 60 years of service, the family has participated in military, civilian, and humanitarian aid operations. The Hercules has outlived several planned successor designs, most notably the Advanced Medium STOL Transport contestants. Fifteen nations have placed orders for a total of 300 C-130Js, of which 250 aircraft have been delivered as of February 2012.

The C-130J is the newest version of the Hercules and the only model still in production. Externally similar to the classic Hercules in general appearance, the J-model features considerably updated technology. These differences include new Rolls-Royce AE 2100 D3 turboprops with Dowty R391 composite scimitar propellers, digital avionics (including head-up displays (HUDs) for each pilot), and reduced crew requirements. These changes have improved performance over its C-130E/H predecessors, such as 40% greater range, 21% higher maximum speed, and 41% shorter takeoff distance. The J-model is available in a standard-length or stretched -30 variant.

As a cargo and airlift aircraft, the C-130J's crew includes two pilots and one loadmaster (no navigator or flight engineer), while specialized USAF variants (e.g., AC-130J, EC-130J, MC-130J, HC-130J, WC-130J) may have larger crews, such as navigators/Combat Systems Officers or other specialized officer and enlisted air crew. The U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J uses a crew chief for expeditionary operations. The C-130J's cargo compartment is approximately 41 feet long, 9 feet high, and 10 feet wide, and loading is from the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft can also be configured with the "enhanced cargo handling system". The system consists of a computerized loadmaster's station from which the user can remotely control the under-floor winch and also configure the flip-floor system to palletized roller or flat-floor cargo handling. Initially developed for the USAF, this system enables rapid role changes to be carried out and so extends the C-130J's time available to complete taskings.

In mid-June 2008, the United States Air Force awarded a $470 million contract to Lockheed Martin for six modified KC-130J aircraft for use by the Air Force and Special Operations Command. The contract led to C-130J variants that will replace aging HC-130s and MC-130s. The HC-130J Combat King II personnel recovery aircraft completed developmental testing on 14 March 2011. The final test point was air-to-air refueling, and was the first ever boom refueling of a C-130 where the aircraft’s refueling receiver was installed during aircraft production. This test procedure also applied to the MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft in production for Air Force Special Operations Command.

With the addition of the Marine Corps's ISR / Weapon Mission Kit, the KC-130J tanker variant will be able to serve as an overwatch aircraft and can deliver ground support fire in the form of Hellfire or Griffin missiles, precision-guided bombs, and eventually 30mm cannon fire in a later upgrade. This capability, designated as "Harvest HAWK" (Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit), can be used in scenarios where precision is not a requisite, such as area denial. The aircraft retains its original capabilities in refueling and transportation. The entire system can be removed within a day if necessary.

The Super Hercules has been used extensively by the USAF and USMC in Iraq and Afghanistan. Canada has also deployed its CC-130J aircraft to Afghanistan.




AAF/ACF Fighters

None














Shawn Garlow in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.










For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:
http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/Active_FM.html
http://world.guns.ru/index-e.html
https://en.wikipedia.org
http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/



For Use of Photos by Shawn Garlow
Contact: garlow.co@gmail.com

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nordic Components by Cactus Tactical

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Tactical Blog from Cactus Tactical

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Fixed-wing aircraft, Part II

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan
Bomb Drop in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan 2008.
In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 


Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 


For our eleventh installment let's take a look at the most common fixed-wing aircraft of the war in Afghanistan. These can be anything from supply & Transport aircraft, to fighter jets and bombers. Fixed-wing aircraft play a large part in the war, dropping precision munitions on enemy ground targets designated by friendlies on the ground.






Part II: The United States (Continued)


B-2 Spirit

The Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American heavy penetration strategic bomber, featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is a flying wing design with a crew of two. The bomber can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, such as eighty 500 lb -class (Mk 82) JDAM Global Positioning System-guided bombs, or sixteen 2,400 lb B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.

Development originally started under the "Advanced Technology Bomber" (ATB) project during the Carter administration; its expected performance was one of his reasons for the cancellation of the supersonic B-1A bomber. The ATB project continued during the Reagan administration, but worries about delays in its introduction led to the reinstatement of the B-1 program as well. Program costs rose throughout development. Designed and manufactured by Northrop, later Northrop Grumman, the cost of each aircraft averaged US$737 million (in 1997 dollars). Total procurement costs averaged $929 million per aircraft, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and software support. The total program cost including development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.1 billion per aircraft in 1997.

Because of its considerable capital and operating costs, the project was controversial in the U.S. Congress and among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The winding-down of the Cold War in the latter portion of the 1980s dramatically reduced the need for the aircraft, which was designed with the intention of penetrating Soviet airspace and attacking high-value targets. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Congress slashed plans to purchase 132 bombers to 21. In 2008, a B-2 was destroyed in a crash shortly after takeoff, though the crew ejected safely. A total of 20 B-2s remain in service with the United States Air Force, which plans to operate the B-2 until 2058.

The B-2 is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet, with a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles (6,900 mi) on internal fuel and over 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi) with one midair refueling. It entered service in 1997 as the second aircraft designed to have advanced stealth technology after the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk attack aircraft. Though designed originally as primarily a nuclear bomber, the B-2 was first used in combat, dropping conventional, non-nuclear ordnance in the Kosovo War in 1999. It later served in Iraq and Afghanistan.




F-15E Strike Eagle

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle is an American all-weather multirole strike fighter derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic-warfare aircraft. United States Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagles can be distinguished from other U.S. Eagle variants by darker aircraft camouflage and conformal fuel tanks mounted along the engine intake ramps.

The Strike Eagle has been deployed for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, among others. During these operations the F-15E has carried out deep strikes against high-value targets, combat air patrols, and provided close air support for coalition troops.

The F-15E's deep strike mission is a radical departure from the original intent of the F-15, since the F-15 was designed as an air superiority fighter under the mantra "not a pound for air-to-ground." The basic airframe, however, proved versatile enough to produce a very capable strike fighter. The F-15E, while designed for ground attack, retains the air-to-air lethality of the F-15, and can defend itself against enemy aircraft.

Weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the 391st Fighter Squadron deployed to Ahmed Al Jaber air base, Kuwait, to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. F-15Es met little resistance during initial missions, in the first night targets ranged from Taliban military structures and supply depots, to al-Qaeda training camps and caves were the main targets. Both the AGM-130 and GBU-15 2,000 lb bombs were expended, this was the GBU-15's first combat usage. GBU-24s and GBU-28s were used against reinforced targets, command and control centers and cave entrances. F-15Es often operated in pairs alongside pairs of F-16Cs. Within weeks of the start of combat operations, there was a lack of targets to strike as nearly all targets had been already destroyed. The Taliban had access to SA-7 and FIM-92 Stinger portable surface-to-air missiles, posing no threat to most aircraft flying above 7,000 feet. Additionally, fixed SAM sites near cities as Mazar-i-Sharif and Bagram were struck early on; Afghanistan had rapidly became a low-threat environment for air operations.

Aircraft commonly flew on-call support missions for allied ground forces, F-15Es usually carried MK-82 and GBU-12 bombs in this role, other weapons were sometimes carried, during one mission a GBU-28, two GBU-24s and six GBU-12s were released. Frequent targets during the rest of the war were individual insurgents, light vehicles and supply convoys; cannon fire was often expended as well as bombs from F-15Es. It was during combat over Afghanistan that four 391st crews conducted the longest fighter mission in history; lasting a total of 15.5 hours, nine of those hours spent flying over the target area. Two F-15Es attacked two Taliban command and control facilities, two buildings suspected of being used by Taliban fighters, and a road block; the F-15Es refueled 12 times during the mission.






F-16 Fighting Falcon
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are still being built for export customers. 

The F-16 is a single-engine, highly maneuverable, supersonic, multi-role tactical fighter aircraft; it was designed to be a cost-effective combat "workhorse" that can perform various missions and maintain around-the-clock readiness. It is much smaller and lighter than predecessors, but uses advanced aerodynamics and avionics, including the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire (RSS/FBW) flight control system, to achieve enhanced maneuver performance. Highly nimble, the F-16 was the first fighter aircraft purpose-built to pull 9-g maneuvers and can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2. Innovations include a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick, and reclined seat to reduce g-force effects on the pilot. It is armed with an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left wing root and has multiple locations for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and accelerate vertically.

Although the LWF program called for a structural life of 4,000 flight hours, capable of achieving 7.33 g with 80% internal fuel; GD's engineers decided to design the F-16's airframe life for 8,000 hours and for 9-g maneuvers on full internal fuel. This proved advantageous when the aircraft's mission changed from solely air-to-air combat to multi-role operations. Changes in operational use and additional systems have increased weight, necessitating multiple structural strengthening programs.

Early F-16s could be armed with up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) by employing rail launchers on each wingtip, as well as radar guided AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range AAMs in a weapons mix. More recent versions support the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The aircraft can carry various other AAMs, a wide variety of air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs; electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation, targeting or weapons pods; and fuel tanks on 9 hardpoints – six under the wings, two on wingtips, and one under the fuselage. Two other locations under the fuselage are available for sensor or radar pods. The F-16 carries a 20 mm  M61A1 Vulcan cannon for close range aerial combat and strafing.

The U.S. Air Force, including the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, flew the F-16 in combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and in the Balkans later in the 1990s. F-16s also patrolled the no-fly zones in Iraq during Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch and served during the wars in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) from 2001 and 2003 respectively. In 2011, Air Force F-16s took part in the intervention in Libya.




AV-8B Harrier II
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II is a single-engine ground-attack aircraft that constitutes the second generation of the Harrier Jump Jet family. Capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL), the aircraft was designed in the late 1970s as an Anglo-American development of the British Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first operational V/STOL aircraft. Named after a bird of prey, it is primarily employed on light attack or multi-role missions, ranging from close air support of ground troops to armed reconnaissance. The AV-8B is used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Spanish Navy, and the Italian Navy. A variant of the AV-8B, the British Aerospace Harrier II, was developed for the British military, while another, the TAV-8B, is a dedicated two-seat trainer.

Typically operated from small aircraft carriers, large amphibious assault ships and simple forward operating bases, AV-8Bs have participated in numerous military and humanitarian operations, proving themselves versatile assets. US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf named the USMC Harrier II as one of the seven most important weapons of the Gulf War. The aircraft took part in combat during the Iraq War beginning in 2003. The Harrier II has served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since 2001, and was used in Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya in 2011. 

The AV-8B Harrier II is a subsonic attack aircraft of metal and composite construction that retains the basic layout of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, with horizontal stabilizers and shoulder-mounted wings featuring prominent anhedral (downward slope). The aircraft is powered by a single Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine, which has two intakes and four synchronized vectorable nozzles close to its turbine. Two of these nozzles are located near the forward, cold end of the engine and two are near the rear, hot end of the engine. This arrangement contrasts with most fixed-wing aircraft, which have engine nozzles only at the rear. The Harrier II also has smaller valve-controlled nozzles in the nose, tail, and wingtips to provide control at low airspeeds.

The AV-8B is equipped with one centerline fuselage and six wing hardpoints, along with two fuselage stations for a 25 mm GAU-12 cannon and ammunition pack. These hardpoints give it the ability to carry a total of 9,200 lb of weapons, including air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-ship missiles, as well as unguided and guided bombs. The aircraft's internal fuel capacity is 7,500 lb. Fuel capacity can be carried in hardpoint-compatible external drop tanks, which give the aircraft a maximum ferry range of 2,100 mi and a combat radius of 300 mi. The AV-8B can also receive additional fuel via aerial refueling using the probe-and-drogue system. 

USMC AV-8Bs took part in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from 2001. The USMC 15th MEU arrived off the coast of Pakistan in October 2001. Operating from the unit's ships, four AV-8Bs began attack missions into Afghanistan on 3 November 2001. The 26th MEU and its AV-8Bs joined 15th MEU later that month. In December 2001, AV-8Bs began moving into Afghanistan to a forward base at Kandahar. More AV-8Bs were deployed with other USMC units to the region in 2002. The VMA-513 squadron deployed six Night Attack AV-8Bs to Bagram in October 2002. These aircraft each carried a LITENING targeting pod to perform reconnaissance missions along with attack and other missions, primarily at night.



To be Continued...












Shawn Garlow in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.










For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:
http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/Active_FM.html
http://world.guns.ru/index-e.html
https://en.wikipedia.org
http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/



For Use of Photos by Shawn Garlow
Contact: garlow.co@gmail.com

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