General Atomics, whose MQ-1 Predator changed the world, is to start testing another potentially revolutionary weapon next month: a 150-kilowatt class laser. Several other companies are developing laser weapons and “we’re looking at all of them,” said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, in an interview with Breaking Defense. “The… Keep reading →
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WASHINGTON: Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, wants to make the AC-130 a kind of flying aircraft carrier, launching mini-drones mid-flight to scope out threats and targets. Oh, and he wants the AC-130 to have a laser cannon as well. Speaking to the Association of Old Crows’ annual conference on electronic… Keep reading →
TYSON’S CORNER: All branches of the military really want laser weapons. But they don’t all want them for the same missions. What struck me after a recent conference here was how differently the US Air Force is approaching lasers. The USAF is pursing a two-pronged approach: They want to mount lasers on both the large… Keep reading →
TYSON’S CORNER: New laser technology looks promising as a way to shoot down Chinese-style massed missiles. But laser projects have overpromised and underdelivered for decades, from Reagan’s Star Wars in the eighties to the Airborne Laser, canceled in 2011. Now proponents must convince the skeptics — particularly in Congress — that this time is different. “Right… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: As the Marines started doing operational testing of the F-35B aboard the USS Wasp, the head of Marine Aviation is visibly and demonstrably confident the aircraft will meet the date for the plane’s Initial Operational Capabiility. “To me the F-35 program is right on track where it should be,” Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the head… Keep reading →
BALLSTON, VA: A soufflé is fluffy but a SOFLE – a brand new military acronym that stands for Special Operations Forces Liaison Element — is sinewy and powerful. Just ask Marine Lt. Col. Andrew Christian, who led the first such unit for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit during a seven month deployment to the Pacific… Keep reading →
Still in his first year as leader of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold has lots of plans, but they no longer include replacing AFSOC’s U-28A manned surveillance aircraft with MC-12W Liberty spy planes. “There was discussion about moving to the Liberty birds,” Heithold told an audience at the Air Force Association… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Sometimes smart bombs aren’t the smart choice. Sometimes you just need a big bad flying gun. That’s why the aging AC-130 gunship is still revered by ground troops for its ability to fire a 105mm cannon — a weapon normally mounted on light tanks. That’s why the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt.… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Shea sensed no danger as he stood with his .50 caliber machine gun ready at the open ramp of “Rooster 73,” one of three CV-22 Ospreys coming in to land on a small, rutted airstrip in Bor, South Sudan. A crowd of up to 10,000 people milled about a United… Keep reading →
Time was, only a masochist could enjoy managing the V-22 Osprey program office. The Marines put the tiltrotor troop transport into service in 2007 after a quarter of a century of development that included design problems, a four-year battle pitting the Corps and their pro-Osprey allies in Congress and industry against a sitting defense secretary, repeated schedule delays and cost overruns, three fatal crashes that led the Pentagon to consider cancelling the helicopter-airplane hybrid in 2001 and an unrelenting drumbeat of media and other criticism.
How much have things changed? Today, the ninth Osprey program manager, Marine Col. Greg Masiello, can honestly say: “It’s a great time to be the joint program manager of the V-22.” Keep reading →