Last week, the US Navy’s lead Zumwalt-class destroyer commenced its first sea trial. The vessel departed from the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine for its open ocean trials, eight years after construction on the vessel began. Designed for land-attack missions, the 185.9m long vessel features a tumblehome hull design and a new Advanced Gun System (AGS), and also introduces a number of automated shipboard functions. The vessel, the first of three ships in the class, has come at a cost of US$4.4 billion.
Also in the US, it’s been reported that the US Navy’s newest ship, USS Milwaukee, has broken down on its way home to California. The littoral combat ship, which was commissioned in November, had to be towed more than 40 nautical miles after suffering an engineering casualty. The cause of the ship’s failure remains under investigation but officials says it appears that debris caught in the lube oil filter causing the system to shut down. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has publically stated that the ‘US Navy ships are built with redundant systems to enable continued operation in the event of an engineering casualty, which makes this incident very concerning’.
Meanwhile, tensions between Turkey and Russia are heating up once again with Moscow reporting that one of its warships fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing boat in the Aegean Sea to avoid a collision. The Russian defence ministry said that it had summoned Turkey’s military attaché over the incident.
The Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board has approved the next step of its effort to replace the US Air Force’s ageing fleet of E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Radar System (JSTARS) spy planes with next generation aircraft. Last Friday the Pentagon confirmed they had signed the ‘Milestone A’ decision necessary to move the program into the technology maturation and risk reduction phase, which the Pentagon had previously blocked due to unspecified concerns about the project. Defense News takes a look at the approval of the JSTARS acquisition program.
Over at Breaking Defense, Colin Clark reveals that Northrup Grumman is reportedly developing a new 40-foot flying wing for the US Navy’s DDG 51 warship and the Littoral Combat Ship. The bird is apparently part of a DARPA program called the TERN, is designed to carry loads of around 500 pounds for approximately 600 nautical miles, and flies using 10-foot counter-rotating rotors.
Wrapping up Flight Path this week, Dave Majumdar takes a look over at The National Interest at Pakistan’s chance of acquiring Lockheed Martin’s stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Between concerns about technology transfer to China and the very real risk that the F-35 could change the balance of power between India and Pakistan, Majumdar concludes Pakistan’s chance of acquiring the fighter is ‘fairly close to nil.’
Three new Chinese urban combat robots have been unveiled at the Beijing 2015 World Robot Conference. The three tracked chassis robots include a combat variant, which can be equipped with an assault rifle, a reconnaissance variant, and an explosive disposal variant. The reconnaissance robot is reported to be light enough for a soldier to carry in a backpack, and all of the robots are remotely operated.
Thanks to the wonders of science, US soldiers could soon be able to eat mac and cheese MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat). MREs are used as military field rations and options are limited to what can be safely preserved. Dr Tom Yang at the US Army Combat Feeding Directorate is researching ‘osmotic meat’ technology for long-lasting jerky and bacon, as well as a method of microwave cooking that will allow soldiers to safely eat their beloved mac and cheese even in combat zones.
In anticipation of the new Star Wars film, the US Army Transportation Museum is drawing attention to some exhibits that are believed to have inspired some of the vehicles in the original film trilogy. Included are a hover-jeep that is reminiscent of Luke’s land speeder, as well as a four-legged hydraulic-powered cargo transport that looks like the AT-AT used to attack the Rebel base in The Empire Strikes Back. And yes, there’s also an early jetpack.