Tag Archives: U.S. Army

These Photos Show U.S. Army AH-64E Apache Supporting The Fight Against ISIS With New Counter IR Missile Systems

Here are some interesting shots of U.S. Army attack choppers equipped with LAIRCM.

U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack choppers supporting the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq have received Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24 large aircraft infrared countermeasure (LAIRCM) system.

According to the service, the 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment was the first unit to operate the U.S. Army’s new LAIRCM aircraft survivability equipment in combat last summer. LAIRCM is a DIRCM (Directional Infrared Counter Measures) an acronym used to describe any infrared countermeasure system that tracks and directs energy towards heat seeking missiles.

Several U.S. Army helicopters provide support to Operation Inherent Resolve: rotary-wing assets operate from multiple Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) in the region, pairing with RQ-7Bv2 Shadow Unmanned Aerial System, which performs reconnaissance and surveillance for the coalition forces. The Shadow UAS identifies enemy personnel and hands the target off to either the AH-64E Apache helos or to the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” drones, the two U.S. Army’s air strike platforms in theatre.

US Army AH-64Es from Task Force Saber in Sarrin, Syria on Jul. 28, 2017. LAIRCM GLTA highlighted in the photo. (Credit: U.S. Army)

In order to perform their tasks, the attack helicopters operate at low altitude, well within the envelope of MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) possibly in the hands of Daesh fighters. Shoulder-fired missiles have long been a concern in Syria, especially in the past years when MANPADS were occasionally used (also by Free Syrian Army militants to bring down Assad regime helicopters).

MANPADS in ISIS hands have made the Syrian battlefield more dangerous to low flying helos and aircraft as proved by the fact that U.S. and coalition aircraft have been targeted by man-portable systems while flying their missions over Syria in the past. For this reason, the U.S. Army Apaches have been equipped with what appears to be the Department of the Navy Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure (DON LAIRCM) system with the Advanced Threat Warning (ATW) upgrade.

The AN/AAQ-24V turret (Northrop Grumman)

The DON LAIRCM system, a variant of the U.S. Air Force LAIRCM system for fixed wing aircraft, is a defensive system designed to protect the asset against surface-to-air infrared missile threats. According to official documents, the system combines two-color infrared missile warning sensors with the Guardian Laser Transmitter Assembly (GLTA). The missile warning sensor detects an oncoming missile threat and sends the information to the processor, which then notifies the crew through the control interface unit and simultaneously directs the GLTA to slew to and begin jamming the threat.

The ATW capability upgrades the processor and missile warning sensors to provide improved missile detection, and adds hostile fire and laser warning capability with visual/audio alerts to the pilots.

LAIRCM System (Northrop Grumman)

The U.S. Navy plans to fully integrate the DON LAIRCM ATW system on the MV-22 and KC-130J with the mission system software whereas the Army plans to integrate AH-64, UH/HH-60, and CH-47 helicopters.

H/T Babak Taghvaee for providing the images of the AH-64Es included in this post.

55 Year Ago The Last U.S. Above-Ground Nuclear Test To Determine The Viability Of An Anti-ICBM Defense System

The Last U.S. Above Ground Nuclear Test Was Oddly Predictive of Current Missile Defense Programs.

July, 1968. Sunday Morning. 100,000 Feet Over the Midwestern United States.

This is a last, desperate attempt at survival.

It is codenamed “Satan”, and it is headed for Nebraska. Plummeting down over the continental United States the Soviet ICBM, designated R-36M, is a nightmare weapon. The world’s heaviest nuclear armed, multiple warhead doomsday weapon, “Satan” carries a planet-smashing fusillade of 10 nukes, each in the massive 500-kiloton range.

This morning Satan begins the unthinkable; an all-out nuclear slugfest between the Soviet Union and the United States. This one Soviet ICBM will destroy the Strategic Air Command headquarters at Offutt AFB, cripple a U.S. nuclear response and deliver the opening gut-punch of World War III.

There is only one hope now.

A MIM-14 Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile leaps vertically on a roiling cushion of smoke from a launch facility in the Midwestern U.S. The spear-shaped white missile shatters the sound barrier as it vaults upward piercing puffy early morning cumulus in a blue sky accelerating toward near-space. The crack of a sonic boom reaches the ground far below, its smoke trail drifting sideways on light breeze while the missile races upward toward its target.

As the Soviet Satan ICBM arcs downward in its plummet toward Armageddon the Nike Hercules makes last millisecond Hail-Mary corrections to kill it in the outer atmosphere. It doesn’t need to be very accurate. This Nike Hercules, the first, and last, line of defense against a nuclear attack from Russia, is carrying its own W31/M97 20-kiloton nuclear warhead.

The two missiles miss each other by a half-mile, but it’s close enough. A second, new sun in the northern hemisphere casts pivoting morning shadows across Nebraska cornfields as it blooms a blinding white detonation where the real sun will be hours from now at about high noon.

The Russian Satan is incinerated in the blinding nuclear flash of the Nike Hercules 20 miles above the ground. As the “red phone” between the White House and the Kremlin begins to buzz, WWIII is averted. Barely.

It never happened, thankfully. But the last atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States took place 55-years ago, on November 4, 1962.

A rare photo of one of the nuclear warheads tested on the Nike Hawk missile. (Photo: US Army)

The last detonation of a nuclear weapon in our atmosphere by the U.S. took place 860-miles southwest of Hawaii above a remote, Pacific Atoll called Johnston Island. This final American above-ground nuclear test was an experiment to determine the viability of an anti-ballistic missile defense system, a project that rings oddly relevant today amid the North Korean crisis and looming threat of Kim Jong-un.
In contrast to current, precision anti-ballistic missile defense systems that use kinetic energy and direct impact combined with ultra-accurate high speed guidance systems to intercept approaching ICBMs before they reach their targets in the U.S., the tests above the Pacific 55 years ago were like using a sledgehammer. A nuclear sledgehammer.

The final U.S. warhead detonated in the atmosphere was riding on top of a Nike Hercules missile. The last launch and detonation test on November 4, 1962 was codenamed “Tightrope”. It was just one of a series of tests that were collectively codenamed “Operation Fishbowl”.

The top-secret project created a remarkable film record of high altitude nuclear detonations. It began somewhat inauspiciously in June of 1962 with a failed test, then finally yielded results with the first successful detonation in the series in July. The project continued until November 4 of that year.

The first successful test in the series was launched on a Thor missile. It created significant electromagnetic pulse syndrome (EMP) and actually knocked out electronics including streetlights and telephones over 900 miles away in Hawaii. It also damaged some satellites in orbit near the detonation.

As the lethal game of nuclear brinkmanship between the U.S. and Russia reached its nearly tragic zenith, U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty the following year on August 5, 1963. The agreement created a new set of international regulations that effectively halted the large-scale detonation of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.

The high-altitude nuclear tests above the Pacific may have signaled the end to one nuclear era, but their attempt to field an effective anti-ICBM defense system rings remarkably relevant today, 55 years later.

Salva

U.S. Army Successful Test Of Weaponized Laser on AH-64 Helo May Suggest A New Application In The Anti-Insurgency War

High Energy Weapon Shows Potential in Effectiveness and Precision In Anti-insurgent Operations But May Be Vulnerable to Countermeasures.

U.S. defense contractor Raytheon conducted a successful, highly publicized, precision firing of a weaponized laser weapon from a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on Jun. 26 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, western United States.

The test firing was conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This association may provide some insight into the intended operational role of High Energy Lasers in a tactical setting.

While the test itself is noteworthy since it is the first time a High Energy Weaponized laser has been fired from an attack helicopter to attack a target, the use of tactical lasers for range-finding, target designation and guidance are already commonplace in militaries around the world.

What makes Monday’s Raytheon test particularly interesting is the new ways a weaponized laser, not just a laser designator, could be used for precision attack and reduction of collateral damage.

Laser, or “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation” is effectively a narrow beam of powerful radiation that burns things. Think of it as a long-range, needle-nosed flame thrower but without visible fire, only heat (or light) energy. In fact, the Raytheon test was visibly quite unremarkable. There was no giant eruption of flames, no bright “death ray” and no explosions on glowing red targets. This invisible, silent, sinister quality may be what makes the laser Raytheon laser weapon fired from the Apache all the more menacing, especially to insurgencies that do not have effective technology to counter the weapon and can’t even tell when they are being targeted until it is too late.

Picture a lone insurgent trying to emplace an Improvised Explosive Device on a roadside. Without warning, the device simply incinerates before their eyes. No explosion unless the munitions are detonated by the laser energy, no sound, no trace of where the “weapon” came from. A mile away an attack helicopter or RPV (drone) silently hovers, firing its death-ray. The IED is simply rendered inoperable. Seconds later Special Operations personnel arrive to detain the insurgent bomber. There are no casualties and no collateral damage. Nearly all intelligence materials are preserved.

This high-precision capability is attractive to anti-insurgent operations that typically involve relatively close range engagements on very small targets, often as small as a brief case or even smart phone. If the targeting optics on the delivery vehicle, in this case an AH-64 Apache helicopter, can see a target, they can direct the laser weapon onto it precisely.

But laser weapons are not entirely infallible. Recall that laser is focused light, and that can be reflected or absorbed. The Chinese military has already devoted substantial research to both laser weapons and laser weapon countermeasures.

The Chinese developed and proven the capability of their own JD-3 and ZM-87 laser weapons. These weapons feature “less than lethal” capability at long ranges, and greater lethality at close range. The Chinese ZM-87 weaponized laser can permanently blind personnel at 2 to 3 kilometers and temporarily blind them out to 10 kilometers. Laser weapons specifically intended for blinding personnel were banned in a 1995 United Nations Protocol that may or may not be observed by nation-users in an armed conflict.

The Chinese JD-3 laser weapon is specifically intended to counter laser target designation and range finding from an enemy force- it fires a laser back at an attacking guidance laser to disrupt and destroy it. Both Chinese lasers have, according to recent intelligence, been ground vehicle mounted. But China is busy developing an indigenous attack helicopter capability with their new CAIC Z-10 and Z-19E Black Whirlwind aircraft, and it is reasonable to suggest both the ZM-87 and the JD-3 could be used from one of the new Chinese attack helicopters in a way similar to this week’s test in the U.S.

China has been particularly active in laser weapon development and deployment.
(Photo: Tiexue.Net)

Most recently the Chinese unveiled a promising new laser weapon at an arms trade show in Abu Dhabi in early March of this year. This new Chinese laser weapon follows their “Low Altitude Guard II” system deployed as an anti-drone weapon and is claimed to be able to intercept and destroy incoming mortar and rocket munitions in flight. These systems have been attributed to a combined research and development project of the Chinese Academy of Physics Engineering and the Jiuyuan Hi Tech Equipment Corporation.

In any conversation about laser weapons anti-laser defenses are among the greatest concerns, although likely not with insurgent adversaries who may lack resources to develop a fieldable anti-laser capability. Mirrors do little to reflect enough laser energy quickly enough to stop the weapons’ effects. Advanced composite material, heat and light absorbent coatings may provide additional protection but are expensive and difficult to field.

Beginning in 2014 Israel showed it developed and successfully tested the “Iron Beam” anti-missile laser weapon built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The system compliments the highly successful Iron Dome anti-missile system already operational. Iron Beam has a reported range of 7 kilometers and has been successful in destroying incoming mortar rounds and artillery projectiles, particularly difficult targets because of their small size and high speed. No information has been recently published about the operational deployment, if any, of Iron Beam.

Finally, while the new Raytheon/AH-64 Apache laser weapon test is noteworthy, it is far from a first.

In 2002 a militarized Boeing 747 called the YAL-1 was equipped with a massive airborne laser weapon intended to destroy ICBMs in flight. The ambitious anti-missile laser system was first fired in 2007 but the program was ended in 2011 for a number of reasons including the unfeasibility of the large aircraft operating safely in close proximity to enemy ICBM launch facilities. The system simply made too large and vulnerable of a target since it had to be relatively close to the missile it was trying to destroy. It remains one of the most expensive defense projects in history.

On Feb. 14, 2012, this writer got to see the YAL-1 make its final flight into Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona for storage and dismantling at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), the famous “Boneyard”.

The Boeing YAL-1 airborne laser weapons system was an early attempt at high power weaponized lasers that ended its life here in the Boneyard in Tucson, Arizona as an unsuccessful operational project.
(Photo: USAF)

While laser weapons are not new this more recent test by Raytheon and the U.S. Army in cooperation with SOCOM may suggest a new niche application for laser weapons in the continuing anti-insurgency war. Depending on how quickly the capability can be fielded this may be a promising test result for the U.S. as it enters yet another chapter in the continuing Global War on Terror.

Salva

U.S. Army National Guard AH-64D Apache flying in Utah’s Supermoon

“My wingman was about 1 mile out my right in perfect position when I grabbed the shot with a zoom lens.”

The stunning photo in this post depicts an AH-64D Longbow Apache with the 1-211th ARB (Army National Guard) returning to base in Salt Lake City after completing a training mission.

The 211th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB) is an Apache National Guard unit based out of West Jordan, Utah, that has performed the Attack and Scout mission for over 40 years and during three recent deployments: Operation Desert Spring (2001-02) in Kuwait, and OEF V (2004-05) and OEF XII (2012-13) in Afghanistan.

The photo was taken by Rob Williams during a night mission over Utah.

Here’s what Rob wrote to The Aviationist in an email:

“The moonshot represented a rare “target of opportunity”, so we took the shot! We were fortunate in having the timing work out so well. To get the scale right, the camera was positioned about a mile away from the inbound bird.”

The Supermoon on Nov. 14 was the closest a Full Moon has been to Earth since Jan. 26, 1948.

“My wingman was about 1 mile out my right in perfect position when I grabbed the shot with a zoom lens.”

So, take a look at the crazy cool shot in this post, taken with a bit of preparation on the aircrew’s side and then check out the one of an F-15E against the Supermoon we published few days ago taken by a photogrpaher from the ground in UK. Who wins? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Many thanks to Rob Williams for sharing the photo with us!

Watch a Chinook lift a stuck Apache helicopter from a rice field in Texas

A massive CH-47 Chinook retrieved a smaller AH-64D Apache attack helicopter near Houston Texas.

On Aug. 30, a Texas Army National Guard AH-64D Apache, was forced to perform an emergency landing on a rice field near Wallisville, 30 miles to the east of Houston.

Although the landing was successful and nobody was hurt, the attack chopper had to be moved away from the field and, two days later, the disabled Army helicopter was rescued by a CH-47 that lifted the AH-64 a carried it for 16 miles to the Baytown Airport.

With a 26,000-lb sling load capacity on the central hook the Chinook is capable to lift and carry other aircraft: for instance, in August 2013, a CH-47F Chinook helicopter transported a U.S. Air Force A-7K Corsair II to the Goldstar Museum at Camp Dodge, in Johnston, Iowa.

Top image: screenshot from AP video