4 weapons a Reaper can drop - We Are The Mighty
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4 weapons a Reaper can drop

With news that the MQ-9 Reaper has gained the ability to drop the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, this unmanned aerial vehicle has gained some new capabilities. But this leads to a big question: What else can a Reaper carry?


Here’s a look at some options:

1. AGM-114 Hellfire

This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (Creative Commons photo)

2. GBU-12 Paveway II

While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called “tank plinking” in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Super Hornet pilot checks a GBU-12 – a laser-guided 500-pounder.

3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent’s day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Aviation Ordnancemen place a weapons cart of GBU-38 500-pound satellite guided bombs on an ordnance elevator on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Stephen Early)

4. AGM-176 Griffin

This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
USS Firebolt fires a version of the AGM-176 Griffin missile. (U.S. Navy photo)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Snipers made three out of four of their longest kills with this rifle

Snipers specialize in taking out enemy personnel from well beyond the average grunt’s range. Lately, due to advances in technology and an amazing degree of skill, the distances from which snipers are scoring kills are getting longer and longer. In 1967, Carlos Hathcock set a record, recording a kill from 2,500 yards using a modified M2 heavy machine gun. But in the War on Terror, four snipers proceeded to shatter the record set by “White Feather” Hathcock.


Of those four record-snapping snipers, three of them (Master Corporal Arron Perry, Corporal Rob Furlong, and an unidentified member of Combined Joint Task Force 2) used the same rifle: The McMillan Tac-50. This gun is chambered for the .50 BMG round — the same round used by the legendary Ma Deuce.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

The McMillan Tac-50.

(McMillan Firearms)

According to the manufacturer, the Tac-50 uses a five-round detachable box magazine. The rifle has a 29-inch, match-grade, free-floating, hand-lapped, and fluted barrel. Most versions of the rifle are equipped with a bipod to provide a fixed length of pull. The rifle comes in one of five finishes: black, olive, gray, tan, or dark earth.

So, how did a cartridge full of .50 BMG, a caliber once used to kill tanks and aircraft, end up on sniper rifles? The answer lies in the round. All three of the McMillan Tac-50 snipers used the Hornaday A-Max match-grade bullet. In .50 BMG, this bullet weighs barely 750 grains — or about 1.7 ounces — meaning it can be flung amazing distances.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

The Hornaday A-Max in .50 BMG. The bullet from this round comes in at 1.7 ounces.

(Hornaday)

Here’s something else interesting: There’s a civilian version of this rifle available for sale. Yes, it’ll have to be shipped to your local Federal Firearms License-holder and you’ll have to go through a background check, but this long-range shooter is available. You can also get the Hornaday rounds as well.

One thing is for certain: It would be fascinating to see what Hathcock could’ve done with this rifle.

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This Hornet pilot makes energy shots loved by special operators

Energy drinks are one of the staples of military service. They’re all around the combat zone, a must for going into the field, and a favorite in care packages.


Marine Corps Maj. Robert Dyer, now an instructor at the Naval Academy and a former member of Marine Special Operations Command, wanted an energy drink that his Marines and he could drink that was caffeine free and contained all the vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that they’d normally take a handful of pills to get.

When they couldn’t get it from the current supplement industry, they decided to make it themselves and created RuckPack, a 3-ounce shot designed to keep troops going without risking a caffeine or sugar crash. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, the shot features amino acids to promote awareness and muscle recovery. And for those who want their nutritional supplements with a little caffeine, a new strawberry flavor contains 120mg of caffeine pulled from green tea.

The company makes an effort to assist veterans. They donate 10 percent of their profits to non-profit organizations such as the MARSOC Foundation, the Navy Seal Foundation and the Green Beret Foundation. Also, they’re recruiting veterans into a distribution network that pays a 10-percent commission for sales to independent retailers. And they have a program for people to donate RuckPacks to those deployed overseas.

RuckPack’s website has some impressive testimonials from athletes as well as more information about their product and business model.

RuckPack was featured on Shark Tank where Dyer spoke about the business and pitched the company. Check out this video:

MORE: ‘The Bunker’ is helping veteran entrepreneurs launch the next big tech company 

AND: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

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This is why North Korea’s nuclear missile program isn’t as crazy as it seems

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, may preside over the most propaganda-inundated, oppressed, and ruthless country on earth, but he’s not crazy.


In fact, under the Kim dynasty, North Korea has time and time again shown strategic thinking and cunning, essentially staying one step ahead of international efforts to curb the regime’s power.

North Korea has, for decades, gotten its way without a major military campaign, and without a single attack on Americans on US soil. North Korea will continue to get what it wants in a broad sense, though sanctions and isolation will slow it down.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Image from Wikimedia Commons

And North Korea will continue to get what it wants, enjoying a growing economy, powerful nationalism, and ever-improving nuclear and missile capabilities.

But if North Korea ever, ever fires one of those missiles in anger, the US will return fire in devastating fashion before you can say, “Juche.”

“Their primary concern is regime survival,” a senior US defense official working in nuclear deterrence told Business Insider.

North Korean statements traffics heavily in propaganda, but all sides seem to sincerely believe the Kim regime cares deeply about its preservation, and has built the weapons for defensive purposes.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“The North Koreans having nukes is a bad thing and we don’t want it. But if we lose that one, we survive it,” said the official.

This statement from a currently-serving US official knowledgeable with nuclear deterrence is a rare admission that North Korea gaining a nuclear ICBM capability isn’t the end of the world.

It’s time to stop thinking of Kim as some dumb and “crazy fat kid” as Republican Sen. John McCain recently put it.

Kim’s thinking seems cold-blooded and ruthless to the US, but he’s not crazy, and he’d have to be to attack the world’s most powerful country.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s Voyager 2 finds mysterious layer outside our solar system

NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space.

It followed six years behind its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which reached the limits of the solar system in 2012. But a plasma-measuring instrument on Voyager 1 had been damaged, so that probe could not gather crucial data about the transition from our solar system into interstellar space.

Voyager 2, which left the solar system with its instruments intact, completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings for the first time on Oct. 4, 2019, via five papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy.


The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system’s bubble and interstellar space. Voyager 2 detected solar winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system. Just beyond the solar system’s edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.

“Material from the solar bubble was leaking outside, upstream into the galaxy at distances up to a billion miles,” Tom Krimigis, a physicist who authored one of the papers, said in a call with reporters.

The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

An image of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986, from a distance of approximately 7.8 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The place where solar and interstellar winds interact

On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what’s known as the “heliosphere,” a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system. In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the “heliopause.” In that area, the edge of our solar system’s bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.

It took both spacecraft less than a day to travel through the entire heliopause. The twin probes are now speeding through a region known as the “bow shock,” where the plasma of interstellar space flows around the heliosphere, much like water flowing around the bow of a moving ship.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the sun.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.

But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that’s the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1’s damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.

Now the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as scientists once thought.

The data indicates that there’s a previously unknown boundary layer just beyond the heliopause. In that area, solar winds leak into space and interact with interstellar winds. The intensity of cosmic rays there was just 90% of their intensity farther out.

“There appears to be a region just outside the heliopause where we’re still connected — there’s still some connection back to the inside,” Edward Stone, a physicist who has worked on the Voyager missions since 1972, said in the call.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

An illustration of a Voyager probe leaving the solar system.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI))

Other results from the new analyses also show a complicated the relationship between interstellar space and our solar system at its edges.

The scientists found that beyond the mysterious, newly identified layer, there’s another, much thicker boundary layer where interstellar plasma flows over the heliopause. There, the density of the plasma jumps up by a factor of 20 or more for a region spanning billions of miles. This suggests that something is compressing the plasma outside the heliosphere, but scientists don’t know what.

“That currently represents a puzzle,” Don Gurnett, an astrophysicist who authored one of the five papers, said in the call.

What’s more, the new results also showed that compared with Voyager 1, Voyager 2 experienced a much smoother transition from the heliopause to a strong new magnetic field beyond the solar system.

“That remains a puzzle,” Krimigis said.

The scientists hope to continue studying these boundaries over the next five years before the Voyager probes run out of fuel.

“The heliopause is an obstacle to the interstellar flow,” Stone added. “We want to understand that complex interaction on the largest scale as we can.”

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

The Voyager 2 spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 1977.

(NASA/JPL)

5 more years of Voyager data

NASA launched the Voyager probes in 1977. Voyager 2 launched two weeks ahead of Voyager 1 on a special course to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those planets.

The detour meant that Voyager 2 reached interstellar space six years after Voyager 1. It is now NASA’s longest-running mission.

“When the two Voyagers were launched, the Space Age was only 20 years old, so it was hard to know at that time that anything could last over 40 years,” Krimigis said.

Now, he said, scientists expect to get about five more years of data from the probes as they press on into interstellar space. The team hopes the Voyagers will reach the distant point where space is undisturbed by the heliosphere before they run out of fuel.

After the spacecraft die, they’ll continue drifting through space. In case aliens ever find them, each Voyager probe contains a golden record encoded with sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth.

In the future, the researchers want to send more probes in different directions toward the edges of our solar system to study these boundary layers in more detail.

“We absolutely need more data. Here’s an entire bubble, and we only crossed at two points,” Krimigis said. “Two examples are not enough.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The 1983 US-Soviet “war scare” is one of the most controversial episodes of the Cold War.


Now we finally know it was also one of the most dangerous, thanks to a February 1990 reportpublished by the National Security Archive at George Washington University this week after a 12-year Freedom of Information Act battle.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US and Soviets were dangerously close to going to war in November 1983, the bombshell report found, and the Cold War-era US national-security apparatus missed many warning signs.

That 1983 “war scare” was spurred by a large-scale US military exercise in Eastern Europe called Able Archer that the Soviets apparently believed was part of allied preparation for a real war.

The Soviet military mobilized in response.

US-Soviet relations had definitely plunged in the early 1980s, but since then experts have debated how close the US and Soviets had come to the abyss during Able Archer.

Had the Soviets really believed Able Archer was preparation for a preemptive strike? Was the intensifying rhetoric of high-ranking Soviet leaders in the run-up to Able Archer meant for domestic consumption, or was it a reflection of actual fears? Was the 1983 Soviet military mobilization intended as internal and external political messaging, or as sincere preparation for war?

Most important, would the Soviets ever have struck first — and were their conditions for a first strike close to being satisfied during Able Archer?

We now have some of the answers.

On October 24, the National Security Archive published the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report on the war scare. The 1990 study is the US intelligence apparatus’ final word on just how close the world came to war in 1983, and how aware American decision-makers were of the state of play.

Its conclusions are chilling, even 32 years later.

It turns out the Soviets believed the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. The US fell victim to the inverse error and didn’t think the Soviets were serious about preparing for war, partly because they didn’t think the Soviets thought the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. As a result, US military and intelligence decision-makers didn’t believe that anything out of the ordinary was happening during Able Archer.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Following are the main findings in the report.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Soviet leadership and intelligence agencies thought the US was planning to fight and win a nuclear war. In the early 1980s, in response to a US nuclear-modernization drive, “Soviet analysts calculated that the US intended [new generations of ballistic missiles] as a means for developing a first-strike force.” The Soviets may also have “calculated that NATO’s decision to field 600 Pershing IIs and cruise missiles was not to counter their SS-20 [intermediate-range missile] force, but yet another step towards a first-strike capability.”

The report documents how this fear of an American first-strike morphed into a kind of corrosive conventional wisdom. In 1981, the KGB formally sent out instructions to monitor possible NATO war preparations, noting that it is “of special importance to discover the adversaries’ concrete plans and measures linked with his preparation for a surprise nuclear-missile attack on the USSR and other Soviet countries.”

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: flickr/mightyohm

The report flatly states that “KGB bosses seemed already convinced that US war plans were real.”

“KGB officers in [Moscow] agreed that the United States might initiate a nuclear strike if it achieved a level of overall strength markedly greater than that of the Soviet Union. And many agreed that events were leading in that direction,” the report added.

In reality, the US was never contemplating a first-strike. One of the more worrying aspects for the Able Archer incident, in the report’s view, is that “Soviet leaders, despite our open society, might be capable of a fundamental misunderstanding of US strategic motives.”

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: Department of Defense

The Soviets realized they were becoming weaker and thought they’d probably lose the nuclear war they believed the US might be planning. Once the Soviets started thinking in terms of a possible nuclear war, they began to realize they didn’t stand much of a chance of winning it.

As the report states, “There was common concern that the Soviet domestic situation, as well as Moscow’s hold on Eastern Europe, was deteriorating, further weakening Soviet capacity to compete strategically with the US.”

Moscow was in a seemingly weak position for a number of reasons, including an economic slowdown, political unrest in Soviet-dominated Poland, the deployment of the Pershings to Eastern Europe, and the diplomatic fallout from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Intriguingly, the report describes a Soviet computer system that analyzed thousands of strategic variables to determine the Soviet Union’s strength relative to the US. The Soviet leadership would reportedly consider a preemptive nuclear strike if the computer ever found that Soviet power had fallen to 40% or below of US power. It reached 45% at points during the run-up to Able Archer.

The Soviets also determined that growing US missile strength would decimate the Soviet nuclear capabilities in a first strike to the point that a second strike would soon become ineffectual or even impossible. As this chart from the report demonstrates, the adversaries’ nuclear strike capabilities were drifting ever further apart:

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: National Security Archive

 

The Soviets responded by moving to cut the launch preparation time of second strike nuclear platforms like submarines and battleships from several hours to just 20 or 30 minutes. After a point, second-strike nuclear missions became the primary focus of Soviet bomber-crew training, according to the report. In the conventional realm, the Soviets began calling up reservists, sending Spetsnaz paramilitaries to the Eastern European front line, deploying nuclear-capable artillery pieces in Eastern Europe, and even converting tractor factories for tank production.

In the psychological realm, Soviet leaders grew paranoid, realizing the balance of power that had defined their country’s entire strategic outlook would soon be a thing of the past.

It was in this context that the US’s Able Archer exercise began in November 1983.

There were some odd things about Able Archer, and the Soviets’ response to it.The Soviets’ concern about Able Archer is understandable, at least in the context of their lager paranoia. Able Archer included the airlift of tens of thousands of US troops to Central European front-line areas. The operation had a notable nuclear component to it as well.

“We are told that some US aircraft practiced the nuclear warhead handling procedures, including taxiing out of hangars carrying realistic-looking dummy warheads,” the report states.

The Soviets responded as if war was imminent. As the National Security Archive summary of the document puts it, “Warsaw Pact military reactions to Able Archer 83 were … ‘unparalleled in scale’ and included ‘transporting nuclear weapons from storage sites to delivery units by helicopter,’ suspension of all flight operations except intelligence collection flights from 4 to 10 November, ‘probably to have available as many aircraft as possible for combat.'”

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: US Archives

In the US, everybody missed everything. The Soviets were serious about preparing for a possible impending nuclear war, and the US didn’t even know it.

Soviet activities around the “war scare” didn’t make a single presidential daily briefing. The US military realized the Soviets were at a higher state of alert but didn’t change their defense posture in response. Two later intelligence community reports on the incident also misinterpreted Soviet actions.

Indeed, one of the heroes of the war scare is Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, the US Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence in Europe during Able Archer. Perroots did nothing to change the US military’s alert status or readiness even as the Soviets were acting on a deep-seated fear of a possible US first strike. This, of course, was because Perroots wasn’t receiving any intelligence suggesting this fear was underlying Soviet mobilizations. The US had missed just about every clue.

The report calls Perroots’ inertia “fortuitous, if ill-informed.” Had the US military changed its operating procedure in Eastern Europe, it would only have escalated tensions and enhanced the chances of an accidental war.

The phrase “fortuitous, if ill-informed” sums up the entire 1983 war scare. The two sides misunderstood the other’s intentions, actions — indeed, their entire worldview — so badly that war nearly broke out.

The superpowers created a situation where simply doing nothing was an unwitting and perhaps civilization-rescuing act of courage.

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The military built an app to call in bomb strikes

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated a new Android tablet app where an Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller — the guy on the ground who is an expert at calling in air strikes — was able to call in multiple close air support (CAS) strikes with an A-10, using only three strokes of a finger.


4 weapons a Reaper can drop
BRRRRRT Forthcoming. (DARPA Photo)

Conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the test was the first set of tests with U.S. Air Force aircraft. Earlier this year, the test were successfully conducted with Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. The Air Force tests used a mixture of laser and GPS-guided weapons, with a 100% success rate, all within the six minute test time frame.

The app — called Persistent Close Air Support — allows the JTAC on the ground to link directly with aircraft pilots, pick targets, and locate friendly forces for the inbound CAS. And you thought the Blue Force Tracker was awesome.

Watch DARPA’s PCAS video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=42v=PfdGQ98Srwc

It’s not science fiction. It’s what they do every day.

NOW: 5 differences between Navy and Air Force fighter pilots

OR: Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s most elite operators

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History’s most dangerous humanitarian mission: When Allied pilots dropped food into Nazi occupied territory

The Nazi occupiers in the Netherlands were fed up with Dutch resistance movements by late 1944. For five years, the Dutch had spied, sabotaged, and smuggled Jewish refugees and Allied aircrews. But really pushed the Germans over the edge was a railway strike that fall.


As retaliation, the Nazis starved the entire population. They cut off food deliveries to the country and stopped local farming by destroying the dikes and flooding the fields. By the time winter hit, the Dutch citizens were eating fried tulip bulbs and drinking soup made from their own hair for survival.

The Netherlands were led by a royal family in exile. Dutch Queen Wilhelmina petitioned the British and American governments to do something to save her people before it was too late. President Franklin Roosevelt, himself of Dutch ancestry, replied to her entreaties, “You can be very certain that I shall not forget the country of my origin.”

Just a month before he died of a cerebral hemorrhage, Roosevelt sent word to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower that the Allies should deliver food to the starving Dutch people.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Photo: Imperial War Museum

There was a problem for the Allied air crews: The best planes for air-dropping food were the bombers, planes that German anti-aircraft artillery units fired upon at every opportunity. Still, Eisenhower ordered them forward and on April 29, 1945, a pair of Royal Air Force bombers flew into German airspace as part of Operation Manna.

Eisenhower had contacted the German leadership in the Netherlands, but he hadn’t even received a verbal agreement from the Germans that they wouldn’t fire. When the first pair of planes crossed into contested territory, it was uncertain if the German gunners knew what was happening. The planes were ordered to fly low and slow, meaning they would be easily destroyed and the crews would be unable to bail out.

As the first planes crossed into the Netherlands, German guns took aim and tracked them — but none fired. Orders from senior Nazi Party officials had apparently made their way down the line and the Allied crews could fly through certain corridors with relative safety.

While some aircraft were later hit from ground fire, it was very little and sporadic. For 10 days, the Allied crews dropped flour, margarine, coffee, milk powder, cheese, chocolate, and salt on fields, racetracks, and airstrips. More than 11,000 tons of food were dropped in the British’s Operation Manna and the American’s Operation Chowhound.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

The gratitude of the Dutch people was sent up to the low-flying crews. Throngs of people waved at the planes and messages, including “Thank You Yanks,” were spelled out in tulips on the flower fields. One beneficiary of the airlift, Dutch resistance member and future actress Audrey Hepburn, would go on to support international aid agencies and cite her own experiences as a motivation.

On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered and the airlifts came to an end as aid began arriving over land and sea.

NOW: 5 unsolved mysteries of World War II

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A look inside the secrets of Air Force One

Air Force One is a lot more than just the President’s plane. It’s also one of the most iconic symbols of America. So besides the President, what’s Air Force One carrying that makes it so special?

BLUF: Air Force One is a formidable flying bunker that probably has all kinds of high-tech, super-cool gadgets, and features that we, the lowly public, will never know. But there are some facts about the President’s bird that we do know. 

A look inside the secrets of Air Force One 

For decades, Air Force One has been volleying Presidents around the country and the world. So, what kinds of secrets does it hold? Well, for one thing, there’s a lot of planning that goes into every trip the aircraft takes – even short jaunts. That’s because each flight requires several contingency plans. Crew members are highly training and always on alert for something out of the ordinary to happen. So they spend countless hours exploring what-if scenarios.

But it turns out that a flying Air Force One is actually safer than a sitting Air Force One. That’s because the air space around the presidential plane is always secure. And, since the aircraft has been modified to repel airborne missiles and jam enemy radar. On the other hand, parked on the runway opens Air Force One up to all kinds of possibilities – all the more reason for the President’s flight crew to remain vigilant.

But what about those secrets?

No one will ever totally know what the aircraft can do or what deep secrets it holds. But there are some really wild features that the President’s plane has that you won’t find anywhere else. 

For example, Air Force One comes equipped with an emergency room. The medical annex is a fully-stocked, ready-to-go operating room. There’s even a fully stocked pharmacy onboard, too.

Two fully equipped kitchens can serve 100 people at any given time. To ensure that the President’s food isn’t tampered with, undercover Air Force chefs go on shopping trips to local markets and then vacuum seal meals ahead of time. 

If that’s not wild enough, the President and other passengers enjoy 4,000 square feet of space. And just to make sure everyone knows where the President’s rooms are, the carpet is different. In the Presidential Quarters, the carpet has stars on it. 

Bonus fact

Air Force One is completed waxed by hand before the President flies in it. Of course, the engine and other operational devices are checked too. But can you imagine how long it must take to hand wax a Boeing 747? 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s 50-year-old squad automatic weapon

With the adoption of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle by the United States Marine Corps, the Marines have replaced the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

What’s especially handy about the new M27 IAR is that it can use the same 30-round magazines used by M4 and M16 rifles. In fact, it looks very similar to the M4 and M16, too. Russia, though, has had a similar dynamic in operation for over five decades with the Ruchnoi Pulemyot Kalashnikova, often called the RPK for brevity’s sake.


4 weapons a Reaper can drop

U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris P. Duane (right) receives assistance from an Romanian soldier in clearing a Russian RPK squad automatic rifle during the weapons familiarization phase of Exercise Rescue Eagle 2000 at Babadag Range, Romania, on July 15, 2000.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Richards)

The RPK replaced the RPD light machine gun in Soviet service starting in 1964. The original version fired the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47 assault rifle and the SKS carbine.

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

The AK-74 (top) and the RPK-74. Note the longer barrel and bipod on the RPK.

(DOD)

The biggest difference between the RPK and the AK-47 is the length of the barrel. The AK-47’s barrel is about 16.34 inches long — the RPK’s barrel is about eight inches longer. Despite this, the RPK shares many common parts with the AK and can readily accept the 30-round magazines used by the assault rifle classic.

The RPK has been upgraded over the years, equipped with night vision sights and polymer furniture, which replaced the wood used on older versions. When the Soviet Union replaced the AK-47 and ALKM with the AK-74 (which fired a 5.45x39mm round), the RPK was replaced with the RPK-74, maintaining a common round. Newer versions of the RPK for the export market are chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO round. A semi-auto version, the Century Arms C39RPK, is available for civilian purchase today.

The RPK has seen action in conflicts around the world, starting with the Vietnam War, and still sees action in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. Even though it has seen over 50 years of service, the RPK likely has a lengthy career ahead of it with militaries — and insurgent groups — around the world.

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About 8,400 US troops to remain in Afghanistan next year

4 weapons a Reaper can drop
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson


President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.

The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”

Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.

In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”

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Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. officials now admit they are hunting al-Qaida in new Afghan provinces, after nearly a decade of referring to the group as “decimated.”


“Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” President Obama roundly declared at his foreign policy debate with then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The U.S. Department of State even claimed al-Qaeda was “severely degraded” in its 2016 country report on terrorism.

But the U.S. military is now hunting al-Qaeda leaders in seven different provinces, indicating a high level of growth since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. John Nicholson admitted to reporters yesterday.

Al-Qaeda operations have increased throughout Afghanistan since the end of U.S. combat missions in 2014. The U.S. assisted an Afghan-led operation in 2015 that destroyed the largest al-Qaeda training camp seen in the history of the Afghan war. U.S.-backed Afghan forces raided another al-Qaeda training base Sept. 19. The base was well stocked with weapons, suicide vests, and fake identification.

“The US government and the military has downplayed al Qaeda’s presence for more than six years, despite evidence that al Qaeda has remained entrenched in Afghanistan some 15 years after the 9/11 attacks,” The Long War Journal noted Saturday.

Nicholson indicated al-Qaeda is increasingly taking advantage of the security vacuum in Afghanistan in remote parts of the country. The Taliban have made unprecedented battlefield gains against the U.S.-backed Afghan Security Forces since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014. The Afghan forces maintain control over approximately 70 percent of the country, according to testimony by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joesph Dunford before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday.

The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to use Afghan territory in the years leading up to 9/11 to plan attacks on the U.S. Al-Qaeda recognizes the leader of the Taliban as the true leader of the Islamic world. After the U.S. killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri immediately swore his allegiance to the new Taliban leader.

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Hollywood’s best and worst fictional US Presidents

Not all presidents have an equal place in history (looking at you, James Buchanan), and not all fictional presidents have an equal place in Hollywood. If you were a great President, you get Daniel Day-Lewis portraying you on screen. If you were a terrible President, Hollywood would rather make up a fake President than make a movie about you.


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Suck it, Buchanan.

There are two criteria for this list. First, this about fictional U.S. Presidents, so even though Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln was the greatest President to appear on screen ever, he doesn’t qualify. Also, the most consequential aspect of the U.S. Presidency to WATM’s military audience is the President’s role as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, so as much as we all loved Kevin Kline’s Dave Kovic’s Bill Mitchell from the 1993 movie “Dave,” America never really faced a crisis in the film.

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That sentence only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie. Pre-9/11 America was fun.

BEST

Josiah Bartlet – “The West Wing”

Jed Bartlett was Plato’s ideal philosopher king. Not content to simply make America the best country it can be on the home front, he deploys peacekeeping troops to finally take care of that pesky Israeli-Palestinian Conflict everyone has been talking about. He also confronts terrorists by assassinating their patron, ends a genocide in Africa, and deploys 140,000 troops to Kazakhstan. 140,000? That’s a lot of troops.

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President Bartlet apparently learned global military strategy from playing Risk.

Thomas J. Whitmore – “Independence Day”

Despite some early setbacks (like nuking Houston), some dubious advisors (he only learned about Area 51 because of an old widower who somehow got aboard Air Force One), and waking up for work at 10 am, President Whitmore is a Commander-In-Chief who wanted to take the fight to the enemy at the first opportunity. Sure, his administration wasn’t the best (approval rating was 40 percent before the invasion … how do you like him now?) but he sure disproved the pundits who called him a wimp when he led freaking fleets of aircraft against aliens with shields and lasers.

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It could only have been more awesome if he flew an A-10.

Tom Beck – “Deep Impact”

Yes, that guy from Armageddon hatched some cockamamie scheme to send oil rig workers to an asteroid. Morgan Freeman’s President Tom Beck did come up with a similar plan, but also planned on that first plan not working, because honestly, does it sound like the best plan for averting a global catastrophe? The answer is no. The President of the United States had to try something. He couldn’t just send 800,000 Americans underground to rebuild civilization later and bid good luck to the rest. He did that, but he tried to save everyone else too.

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I would watch every political speech if it were in this voice.

David Palmer – “24”

When confronted with the possibility that a loose nuclear weapon could be detonated in the United States, President Palmer does exactly what every other President, real or imagined, probably wishes they could do: Call Jack Bauer. He reinstates Agent Bauer, who finds the bomb and detonates it in a safe place, within 24 hours. He’s also smart enough not to start bombing countries because of some fake recordings. For all his trouble, he’s removed from office, then assassinated. We didn’t deserve President Palmer anyway.

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We were in such good hands, too.

President Henry Fonda – “Fail-Safe”

Imagine being President and accidentally ordering a nuclear attack on Moscow in response to a perceived missile attack. Now imagine that missile attack isn’t real, but you can’t call off the bombing of Moscow. When your bombers nuke the Russian capital, would you be able to make a deal with the Russians to nuke New York yourself in order to avert a global war? Could you do it while your wife is in New York? I’m guessing not. But Henry Fonda could.

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The producers of Fail Safe could at least have given the President a name.

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho – “Idiocracy”

Some might argue that President Camacho both enabled his stupid people while being one of them, but realizing the problem of not being able to grow food while being smart enough to enlist a smart guy to fix that problem is some good Presidenting.

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WORST

Merkin Muffley – “Dr. Strangelove”

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If someone is the President of the United States during a time where nuclear annihilation was just a button push (or case of mistaken identity) away, one would think they might learn everything there is to know about how nuclear war could be triggered from their side. President Muffley had no idea. Granted, he tries to talk everyone down and prevent the attack on the USSR, but it would have been averted entirely if he had just known what the hell his own military was capable of in the first place.

Benjamin Asher – “Olympus Has Fallen”

 

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I sure hope he’s getting advice from a *good* President here.

North Koreans take over the White House, execute the South Korean Prime Minister, and take President Asher and some of his Cabinet hostage, looking to remove U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula and detonate American nuclear missiles in their silos. To do this (why is this even an option?), he needs three sets of “Cerberus codes,” which he promptly orders two of his cabinet secretaries to give up in exchange for their lives, obviously not realizing there is a situation where millions of American lives are at stake, and is bigger than just what’s happening in front of him.

James Dale – “Mars Attacks”

Even in the face of unprecedented violence, a Martian invasion, and the Martians slaughtering Congress, President Dale still sought a diplomatic solution.

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America can do better. I mean, we *could* have, but now we’re enslaved by Martians.

James Marshall “Air Force One”

Harrison Ford plays President James Marshall, a Medal of Honor recipient in his previous time in the U.S. military. Now, Air Force One is hijacked by Russians posing as journalists (because anyone can get aboard Marshall’s Air Force One, apparently). After allowing many on board to get killed, he almost brings down the Air Force pararescue jumpers and C-130 crews who rescue him in the end because he just won’t leave the stupid plane. Also, for a Medal of Honor recipient, he sure doesn’t fight, move, or hold a weapon like someone trained to fight.

The President from ‘Escape from New York’

If you’re going to allow the borough of Manhattan to be a contained prison just for inmates with life sentences, why would you allow Air Force One to fly over it? Also, how are so many people taking over Air Force One in these movies? It’s so easy for people in movies to take that plane, unless you’re the good guys. Steven Seagal died trying to sneak aboard the President’s jet in “Executive Decision,” but some dudes can take it over while the POTUS is carrying secret bomb plans in “Escape from New York.”

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I hope Snake Plissken ran against him before his second term.

Dishonorable Mention – Julian Navarro – “The Brink”

Tim Robbins’ Secretary of State Walter Larsen should have been the President on this show. It was like the actual President didn’t know anything at all about the modern world’s trouble spots, his intelligence assets, or how to deal with any of it. His first response is just to bomb the crap out of everything at the suggestion of his Secretary of Defense.

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