Metro-East News

Air Force will have first combat lasers on C-17, C-130 aircrafts

The U.S. Air Force plans to arms its fleet of drones and fighter jet with high-tech laser weapons, according to Next Big Future.

The Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have its program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023. The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts.

***

The U.S. Military Academy has launched an inquiry into a photo showing 16 black, female cadets in uniform with their fists raised, an image that has spurred questions about whether the gesture violates military restrictions on political activity, according to Military.com.

West Point is looking into whether the photo broke any rules, Spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker said Saturday. It’s unclear how long the inquiry will take and too soon to say what consequences it could have for the cadets, who are poised to graduate May 21.

By campus tradition, groups of cadets often take pictures in traditional dress uniforms to echo historical portraits of their cadets. Indeed, a different picture of the same women, without the raised fists, was tweeted out by the chairwoman of the academy’s Board of Visitors, 1980 graduate Brenda Sue Fulton.

But the fists-up image, which circulated online, led some observers to question whether the women were expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of protests over police killings of unarmed black men.

***

“Physiological episodes” — including hypoxia and decompression sickness from loss of cockpit air flow — which are hard to diagnose after the fact — are a confirmed cause in at least 15 naval aviation deaths in the past two decades — and aviators are worried more pilots may die before officials fix the problems, according to Navy Times.

Naval Air Systems Command is scrambling to implement fixes, but the brass has underplayed the severity and frequency of the danger since it emerged in a February congressional hearing, according to interviews with pilots and official reports.

“So the problem is, how low can you go? And you’re doing this hypoxic,” recalled the 1,000-hour West Coast-based Hornet pilot, who asked not to be named out of concern over his 10-year career.

These show a troubling rise in the number of breathing and pressurization problems, and that Navy and Marine F/A-18 Hornet and EA-18G Growler aviators view the problematic On-Board Oxygen Generation System as the fleet’s most pressing safety issue 10 times over. Despite these issues, aviation bosses have not grounded the fleet, a common response to aircraft safety issues.

***

For nearly two years, U.S. airstrikes, military advisers and weapons shipments have helped Iraqi forces roll back the Islamic State group. The U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 5,000 airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq at a total cost of $7 billion since August 2014, including operations in Syria. On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy SEAL was the third serviceman to die fighting IS in Iraq.

But many Iraqis still aren’t convinced the Americans are on their side, according to the Associated Press.

Government-allied Shiite militiamen on the front-lines post videos of U.S. supplies purportedly seized from IS militants or found in areas liberated from the extremist group. Newspapers and TV networks repeat conspiracy theories that the U.S. created the jihadi group to sow chaos in the region in order to seize its oil.

Despite spending more than $10 million on public outreach in Iraq last year, the U.S. government appears to have made little headway in dispelling such rumors. An unscientific survey by the State Department of Iraqi residents last year found that 40 percent believe that U.S. policy is working to “destabilize Iraq and control its natural resources,” and a third believe America “supports terrorism in general and (IS) specifically.”

Skepticism about U.S. motives is deeply rooted in Iraq, where many still blame the chaos after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein on American malice rather than incompetence. The conspiracy theories are also stoked by neighboring Iran, which backs powerful militias and political parties with active media operations.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

  Comments