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Air Force laserThe Air Force plans to be able to incinerate targets such as incoming missiles with laser weapons mounted on C-17s by 2023 as part of a directed energy developmental effort, service official said.

The High Energy Laser, or HEL, is being tested by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Ground tests are slated for later this year as part of a plan to precede air-launched laser weapons firing evaluations, Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist, told Military​.com in an interview.

The first ever ground test of the weapon is slated to take place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., said Othana Zuch, an Air Force spokeswoman. [Continue reading…]

Big DogDid you know the Germans used ground robots to protect the beaches of Normandy during the World War II? Clearly, they were not too effective, but unmanned ground vehicles have taken quite a few steps forward in recent years.

The Air Force drones in the sky typically get most of the attention but here’s a quick video (click here for mobile users) by Military.com’s film team on the UGV highlighting the developments made by the Army and Marine Corps. [Continue reading…]

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The U.S. Army is experimenting with acoustic threat detection systems to help soldiers in combat zones pinpoint the location of incoming fire, from automatic weapons to rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.

The service is testing products including FireFLY, which was used in Afghanistan for a two-year period through 2013, and a newer and bigger system called Serenity, which is works with infrared cameras to produce more precise geolocation data.

“It’s not an official program of record, but it’s based off of 10 years of research and it’s in the late prototyping stage,” David Anderson, president of Invariant Corp., said last week during an exhibition at the Pentagon to showcase various military research projects. [Continue reading…]

What's going on here?An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilot will one day control a small fleet of nearby drones from the cockpit while in flight — according to a new Air Force report on autonomous systems, Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley said.

The Air Force is poised to unveil a new strategy for unmanned aircraft systems next month. The report will discuss more teaming with manned aircraft such as the F-35, greater levels of automation and a wider scope of missions for UAS — such as transporting cargo.

“We see unmanned vehicles being used for a much wider variety of missions,” Endsley said in an interview with Military​.com. “Today they are primarily used for ISR, long duration missions where we want to collect information. In the future, they will be moving cargo and more manned-unmanned teaming where they are acting as extensions of a manned aircraft.” [Continue reading…]

WaveriderThe U.S. Air Force is making progress in developing a hypersonic weapon based on the success of an experimental scramjet program, engineers said.

The service in 2013 conducted its fourth and longest flight of the so-called X-51 WaveRider. After separating from a rocket launched beneath the wing of a B-52 bomber, the hypersonic vehicle built by Boeing Co. climbed to 60,000 feet, accelerated to Mach 5.1 and flew for about three and a half minutes before running out of fuel and plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

At that speed, which is equivalent to about 3,400 miles per hour, a missile could travel from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta in just several minutes — making it a potentially powerful weapon against enemy air defenses.

“We are the Air Force. What do we want to do with this technology? We want to weaponize it,” Ryan Helbach, an official with the Air Force Research Laboratory, said last week during an exhibition at the Pentagon to showcase various military research projects. “The follow-on program to this is the High Speed Strike Weapon effort. It’s taking a lot of the lessons learned and the technology and moving to a weapons acquisition.” [Continue reading…]