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Air Force

Prompt Global Strike, the Pentagon’s idea for a weapon that can be launched from the United States and hit a high-value target anywhere on Earth in an hour or less has been around for a while.

Some envision this weapon as resembling an ICBM armed with a conventional warhead instead of a nuclear payload. This makes some sense — ICBMs launched from the U.S. can strike their targets on the other side of the world extremely quickly.

The problem with putting a conventional weapon on an ICBM is that nations like Russia might think the U.S. is lobbing a nuke the second an unannounced ballistic missile launch appears on their radar screens. Needless to say, that wouldn’t be a good situation.

So, how do you make it obvious that your ICBM doesn’t have a nuke on board? It’s all in the trajectory, according to Boeing officials.

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While on a tour of Boeing’s V-22 assembly line Wednesday, DT learned that Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Ospreys performed an impressive combat search and rescue mission in June 2010 — nearly one year before USMC MV-22s rescued the pilot of that F-15E Strike Eagle that crashed in Libya in March.

Here are the details of the operation as relayed to DT by Bill Sunick, Boeing’s manager of V-22 business development.

On June 1, 2010 a helo carrying 32 people went down during a special operations raid near Kunduz in Northeast Afghanistan. A severe dust storm and the Hindu Kush mountain range foiled attempts by other helos to reach the stranded crew and passengers who were under small arms and mortar fire. Two CV-22s from the 8th Special Operations Squadron launched out of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan within two hours of being alerted and flew 400-miles straight to the site — over the 15,000-foot mountains and through “very low visibility”  – and back to Kandahar with the 32 stranded troops in less than four hours.

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RIDLEY PARK, Pa. — The V-22 Osprey is getting an extra 20-knots of speed and more than 1,00-pounds of lift power without any hardware changes, Boeing officials revealed this week.

Instead, engineers simply updated the tiltrotor’s software, boosting the Osprey’s max cruising speed to 260 knots, according to Bull Sunick, Boeing’s V-22 business development manager. A similar software upgrade will soon tweak propeller angles to give it an additional 1,000-pounds of power when in a hover.

The V-22 is “the iPod, if you will, of rotorcraft in that we were able to improve our [airspeed] to 260 knots through a flight control software upgrade,” Sunick told DT after a tour of Boeing’s V-22 assembly line here (hence the Instagram photo I took). “You go home, you synch your iPod and you get the new software on there — we kinda do the same with the airplane, it’s all ones and zeros…it was through a software drop. A new version came out, kinda like your new iPod software and boom, no new engines no new drivetrain.”

This was just after he’d finished reminding me of how an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 had  performed one of the tiltrotor’s very first combat search and rescue missions nearly one year before USMC MV-22s rescued the pilot of that F-15E Strike Eagle that crashed in Libya last March.

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Imagine a weapon sailing over an enemy city or military target and effectively paralyzing all electronics in its wake while causing almost no physical damage? Sci-fi writers and military planners have dreamed of such things for years. The problem is, the electromagnetic pulse often associated with cooking electronic systems is usually generated by the detonation of a nuclear warhead — not exactly a low-collateral damage tool.

It’s no secret that the military has been working on weapons that can knock out enemy electronics without causing physical damage for a looong time. Now the Air Force is one step closer to making such devices a reality. Earlier this year the Air Force successfully test fired the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) for the first time.

CHAMP is basically a missile containing a microwave emitter that’s powerful enough to scramble electronic systems that it is aimed at. The ultimate goal of the program is to test the feasibility of installing the system — which would fire off microwave beams of various intensity at specific targets — on a larger vehicle. Or, as CHAMP-maker (ha!) Boeing dramatically says, this test “sets the stage for a new breed of nonlethal but highly effective weapon systems.”

Below is the announcement Boeing just released on the successful missile launch:

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Here’s an interesting little nugget of info that came out of this week’s Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md:

Hawker Beechcraft and Lockheed Martin’s AT-6 entry into the Air Force’s light attack competition has been tested by the Air National Guard in the Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) mission that defends U.S. airspace.

The turboprop plane flew in one of U.S. Northern Command’s Falcon Virgo ASA exercises out of Andrews Air Force Base, Md., last November where it intercepted a slow, Cessna-style propeller plane four times in the skies above Washington DC, said Derek Hess, Hawker Beechcraft’s director of AT-6 development, yesterday during a briefing at the conference.

The AT-6 zeroed in on the Cessna-like plane using radar information that was sent to it via the ubiquitous Link-16 datalink and exchanged text messages with ground controllers and a pair of F-16 fighters. The AT-6 being offered to the USAF comes equipped with a glass cockpit based on the A-10C Warthog’s.

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