To an infantry squad leader, having the powerful tool of “mortars-on-station” gains allied forces a massive battlefield advantage. Setting up the weapon system can be fast and flawless with a well-trained crew.
A mortar tube is comprised of an elongated, closed metal tube mounted on a base plate.
On the bottom of the mortar tube is a fixed firing pin. Once a mortar shell is loaded and dropped into the tube, it slides down and strikes the firing pin which causes the mortar’s propellant to ignite creating gas pressure — launching that sucker at the bad guys.
Modern mortars are designed to provide short-range indirect fire at high angles, typically between 45 and 80 degrees. They are relatively light-weight in nature making them more accessible to carry while on a foot patrol. It’s much better than hauling a 155mm Howitzer artillery shell.
That sh*t is heavy.
In the event the bad guys do get “froggy,” the mortarmen on the ground can quickly and efficiently set up the mortar system while the infantrymen accurately get a fix on the enemy’s position and make it rain 81mm mortar — it’s a beautiful spectacle.
For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).
A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.
G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.
Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.
He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.
When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.
This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.
“American Sniper,” “Dunkirk,” and “Fury” are just a few the great war films that have hit theaters with in the last few years. These films help inspire today’s youngsters to consider joining the military.
In the next few decades, they will be remembered as among “The Classics” when it comes to ranking war movies.
But as we move forward, the classic war movies that inspired our past generations are the ones that helped get the modern day war films greenlit. Because of this, we should always recognize and never forget them — ever.
Grab your popcorn and check out our list of classic war films every young trooper should watch.
1. The Great Escape
Steve McQueen stars in this epic WWII film about a group of POWs trying to escape from a German prison camp.
2. Kelly’s Heroes
Directed by Brian G. Hutton, the film follows a group of American troops who travel deep behind enemy lines to retrieve some Nazi treasure.
3. Paths of Glory
This classic stars Kurt Douglas as Col. Dax, an officer who attempts to defend his troops who are accused of cowardice while fighting in the dangerous trenches of WWI.
4. Hamburger Hill
Directed by John Irvin, this story depicts one of the bloodiest American battles to take place during the hectic Vietnam War.
5. Apocalypse Now!
This film is considered one of the greatest movies ever produced. The story follows Capt. Willard’s journey to locate and assassinate a renegade Army colonel during the Vietnam War.
6. The Green Berets
John Wayne plays Col. Mike Kirby, an Army Special Forces officer tasked with two vital missions consisting of building a camp and kidnapping a North Vietnamese General.
7. Sands of Iwo Jima
This time John Wayne plays Sgt. John Stryker, a Marine who puts his men through his rough style of training to prepare them to fight in one of the Corps’ most historic battles.
Directed by Jack Smight, this classic tale re-enacts the American victory at the Battle of Midway — considered one of the most critical turning points in the Pacific during World War II.
This 1970 film focuses on the incredible career of Gen. George S. Patton during WWII.
10. To Hell and Back
In this 1955 release, real life war hero Audie Murphy plays himself in the story of how he became one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history.
11. The Dirty Dozen
This epic motion picture follows Maj. Reisman, a rebellious soldier assigned to train a dozen convicted murders to carry out a deadly mission to kill multiple German officers.
12. The Fighting Seabees
John Wayne plays Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovon, a construction worker building military bases in the Pacific. After they come under fierce attack from Japanese forces, the Seabees have to defend themselves at all costs.
13. The D.I.
Directed and starring Jack Webb, this film follows one of the toughest Marine drill instructors to ever serve on Parris Island as he pushes a recruit platoon through basic training.
In 1984, the CIA issued a burn notice on a former Iranian secret police officer and arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar once worked for the Shah of Iran’s SAVAK internal security service and was the primary agent between the United States, Israel, and the Iranians in the early days of the Iran-Contra Affair.
Few people involved trusted Ghorbanifar, but Americans were being held hostage by Iran and the shady arms dealer was their best bet. They were right not to trust him, as even Col. Oliver North once said of him “I knew him to be a liar.” After one of the arms shipments went bad and Ghorbanifar collected his money anyway, the CIA issued his burn notice.
A burn notice from an intelligence agency doesn’t require that an intelligence asset be killed in some covert operation. Manucher Ghorbanifar is not only still alive, he even arranged a meeting between Americans and Iranians in the days before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
What it does mean is that any information provided by the person in the burn notice is useless, probably fabricated, and that the asset will do anything for money. Essentially, it’s not the person getting burned, it’s all their useless information. Think of it as CIA officers are expected to burn whatever material was provided by the failed asset.
Even though no one really trusted him, Ghorbanifar was considered a necessary evil. In the early 1980s, multinational peacekeeping forces and diplomatic cadres in Lebanon saw a series of kidnappings of high-profile people. Military officers, diplomats, and journalists were all fair game. It wasn’t just the United States as a victim; no one was immune. The Soviet Union, France, and other nations had citizens taken as hostages.
In the case of Manucher Ghorbanifar, he was a go-between for Israel, the U.S., and Iran. Iran was in the middle of a devastating war with Iraq and needed arms. The Islamic Republic also controlled many of the militias in Lebanon. The U.S. agreed to allow Israel to give arms to Iran if Iran would free the American hostages. The Americans would then replenish the Israeli stockpiles.
The deal Ghorbanifar brokered between Iran, Israel, and the United States began to unravel very quickly. The Iranians were not releasing the hostages requested, the U.S. began sending more missiles than laid out in the deal, and Ghorbanifar’s explanation was not adding up. After failing three lie detector tests, the CIA issued his burn notice.
That was in 1984. Ghorbanifar continued to peddle his information to intelligence agencies, and even though the CIA’s burn notice went out to friendly foreign intelligence agencies, Ghorbanifar still found buyers. He was soon discovered to be a double agent, working for Mossad.
And yet, even the CIA continued to work with Ghorbanifar, despite its own files describing him as “an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance.” It was Ghorbanifar who suggested to Col. Oliver North in 1986 that they should fund the Nicaraguan Contras with money from the sale of arms to Iran.
The arms for hostages deal never panned out, and many of the hostages captured by various Lebanese militia groups were either killed or held for years before release. Ghorbanifar, once burned by the CIA, decided to use his influence to get his Iranian contacts to leak the illegal American activity to the press.
News of the Iran-Contra scandal first appeared in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa in 1986. The story’s source was former Iranian cleric Mehdi Hashemi, who opposed the Iranian regime’s dealings with the U.S.
During the Wild West, many towns popped up along the trail and eventually went on to become ghost towns. Military bases, though, have sometimes become “ghost bases” – abandoned and left to rot.
Some of these ghost bases are near cities like the Big Apple. Others, like Johnston Atoll, are pretty far off – a nice getaway spot, if not for the history of being used as a storage center for Agent Orange and other interesting stuff.
The climates can be very different – from the burning sands of Johnston Atoll to the frozen flatlands of North Dakota, where America briefly operated a ballistic-missile defense system known as SAFEGUARD.
One base in Croatia that once was home for almost 50 fighter jets was abandoned during the Yugoslav civil war of 1991 – and the wrecks are mostly used by folks seeking some adventure. That base still gets “official” use for law enforcement training.
A damaged runway at the Zeljava Air Base in Croatia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
You can even check out one abandoned facility that will soon fall into the Pacific. No, not Johnston Atoll (it was a re-claimed coral atoll built over the years long before China did the same thing in the South China Sea), but instead the Devil’s Slide bunker on the California coast. A lack of maintenance and the natural process of erosion will eventually send this coastal-defense bunker tumbling from commanding heights and into the Pacific.
But if you want one “ghost base” that has captured imaginations worldwide, you can go to either the Ukraine or Siberia to see the Duga Radar Array – an early-warning system meant to detect American missiles. Or just pick up the video games “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Stalker” to see representations of the array used.
So, take a peek at this video that tells more about these and some other “ghost bases” – and tell us which “ghost base” you would like to know more about.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Last week the Republicans used Day One of their convention in Cleveland to tee up national security issues, rolling out military veterans like “Lone Survivor” SEAL Marcus Luttrell and former head of DIA Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to attack Hillary Clinton for her inaction around the force protection disaster in Benghazi, Libya and her reckless handling of classified emails while serving as Secretary of State.
Several veterans advocates who’d also attended the RNC in Cleveland had wondered aloud, after a couple of days of next to nothing on the topic of issues facing the military, whether the DNC was going to mount any counter to Republican accusations and what they’d presented on behalf of the military and veterans community the week prior. Yesterday they got their answer as the Democrats brought out the party’s own platoon of military veterans to put the verbal crosshairs squarely on Donald J. Trump’s center of mass.
Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, set the tone in the afternoon when he kicked off the Veterans and Military Family Counsel session with some very specific criticisms about Trump.
“The Republican nominee for president goes around praising Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein,” Moulton said. “Specifically, about Saddam Hussein, he praised him for killing terrorists. Let’s just remember who Saddam Hussein termed ‘terrorists.’ There are American troops like me. He killed hundreds of Americans. And there were tens of thousands of innocent Shite civilians in his own country whom he massacred in the streets. It’s pretty unfathomable that we have a major party nominee who says things like that on the campaign trail.”
Moulton, who just returned from a Congressional junket to Iraq and Afghanistan, went on to accuse Trump of having a bad effect on the morale of troops on the front lines.
“I would never purport to speak for all the troops, but there was remarkable consensus around those dinner table discussions that Donald Trump is a threat to our country,” Moulton said. “And when you’re hearing that from the guys who are literally putting their lives on the line as we sit here today, it makes you stop and think.
“If there’s one group of people who Americans will listen to it’s all of you who have put your lives on the line for our country. It’s all of us who have the credibility to say, ‘I know a little bit about our national security because I was part of it.'”
Moulton’s remarks were followed by an equally pointed attack against Trump from Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both legs after her helicopter was hit by enemy fire in Iraq.
“We’re talking about a man on the other side who this morning said he wanted to renegotiate the Geneva Convention,” Duckworth said. “Well, let me tell you what: When you’ve sat in a downed aircraft outside the wire after you’ve just been shot down and you’re bleeding to death, you got a whole different perspective about the Geneva Convention.”
“[Donald Trump] categorically wants to send more young women and men into combat,” said Will Fischer, veterans representative for the AFL-CIO, who followed Duckworth on the stage. “His kids, like Donnie Jr., ain’t putting on a flak jacket anytime soon.”
After the Veterans and Military Families Counsel session concluded, We Are The Mighty had an exclusive audience with more than a dozen flag and general officers who were present this week to show their support for Hillary Clinton.
“One of the most important things is understanding the value of partnerships, coalitions, and alliances for the U.S. to be able to carry out its missions,” retired Navy Rear Admiral Kevin Green said. “Candidates for commander-in-chief need to understand that’s how we avoid unnecessary wars, that’s how we leverage our allies and our friends to do the kinds of things we need to do keep the United States safe and secure.”
Green framed Trump’s business approach to foreign policy as a liability, saying, “If you consider the relationships with other nations as transactional – what do I get if I give you this? – it undermines our national security.”
“Reality TV has nothing to do with [national defense] reality,” added Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, a retired Navy chaplain. “He can say three lies during the day and then deny them. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines need to be looked at in the eye and told God’s own truth when we ask them to go out there and kill or be killed.”
“The commander in chief doesn’t have any checks and balances,” said retired Air Force Major General Maggie Woodward. “He makes a decision on the spot and we execute it. That’s why it’s so terrifying to have a guy that we all believe is not qualified or temperamentally fit for that position.”
“One of the things I discovered, not only leading troops in combat but also while in charge of recruiting for the Marine Corps, is what we had to tell America in order to have their sons and daughters be part of the military,” said retired Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin. “They expected us to be professional, to lead, and to be knowledgeable of the world where we were sending their kids. We have to do that again so that the average person understands what’s about to happen if the person putting them there is alienating our allies and the Muslim locals in the areas we’re going to be fighting in.”
But the final thought for the day on matters of military readiness and national security was reserved for Leon Panetta, former head of the CIA and Department of Defense.
“Donald Trump says he gets his foreign policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant,” Panetta said from the main stage at the Wells Fargo Center during his primetime appearance just before President Obama’s speech that closed out the program. “If only it were funny, but it is deadly serious.”
The response from the Trump campaign to the daylong fusillade was muted by Trump standards. The usually prolific candidate was idle on Twitter until late in the day when he tweeted something about how shooting deaths of police officers were up by 78 percent and that the country doesn’t feel great already, a counter to a statement made by Obama during his remarks.
An effort to make Black Hawk helicopters function as optionally unmanned aircraft passed a major threshold last week, Defense One reports, citing an Army testing official.
The test featured an unmanned Black Hawk picking up and delivering an autonomous amphibious all-terrain vehicle, or AATV, which then carried out its own mission. The two unmanned vehicles managed to coordinate their missions and successfully carried them out.
Paul Rogers, director of the Army’s Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, told Defense One that during the exercise, the helicopter “came in, picked up [the AATV], flew 5 to 7 kilometers in an air route, delivered it to a ground location, and released it.”
After the delivery, the AATV autonomously navigated a series of chemical and biological hazards while beaming back satellite data.
The success of the joint operation between the autonomous Black Hawk and AATV highlights a new level of robot teamwork.
The test also highlights the greatest success yet in attempts to make the Black Hawk an optionally manned aircraft in the future. Sikorsky, the company that builds the Black Hawk, has been working toward an unmanned version of the helicopter since an announcement last year.
The Army’s existing fleet of approximately 2,500 Black Hawks could be retrofitted to make the aircraft optionally manned. Such a move would supposedly give the Army a greater degree of flexibility in its operations.
“The autonomous Black Hawk helicopter provides the commander with the flexibility to determine crewed or un-crewed operations, increasing sorties while maintaining crew rest requirements,” Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering at Sikorsky, told Defense Tech about the project. “This allows the crew to focus on the more ‘sensitive’ operations and leaves the critical resupply missions for autonomous operations without increasing fleet size or mix.”
Few people question where popular bands got their names. Especially when the band is as popular as Foo Fighters. Founded in 1994 by a former member of Nirvana, today the band is known for its millions of records sold, awards won and topping the airwaves for the better part of three decades. Even if you aren’t familiar with the band, it’s likely that you’ve heard some of their songs, like “My Hero,” “Learn to Fly” and “Best of You” — only to name a few of the Grammy-winning band’s hits.
But before all of that, before they were a chart-topping rock band, they were named after a little-known war phenomenon. The Foo Fighters is actually a term that dates back to World War II when dashing lights were seen up in the sky. War pilots often saw these bright lights that would dash and turn directions — far faster than any aircraft could at the time. Not knowing the origin of the lights, the pilots started calling them “foo fighters.”
The history of the flashing lights
While the 415th Night Fighter Squadron was stationed over Rhine Valley, occupied by Germany at the time, pilots began reporting lights. They stated, “Eight to 10 bright orange lights off the left wing … flying through the air at high speed.” Nothing was visible on radar, and the lights are said to have disappeared. “Later they appeared farther away. The display continued for several minutes and then disappeared.”
The radar observer at the time coined them “foo fighters,” a nonsensical term from the cartoon strip “Smokey Stover.” The phenomenon kept occurring, and the name stuck.
Further sightings listed the lights as being red, orange and green, easily flying alongside planes at 200+ mph. What’s more impressive was the maneuverability, as the lights could move quickly, change directions and stop with ease. Nothing was ever picked up by radar, either.
The reports by pilots began compiling, and additional pilots from other units said they had seen a similar phenomenon. The frequency and consistency of the reports led military officials to believe it wasn’t battle fatigue, as had previously been theorized, and an investigation was launched.
However, little was found from their research. Eventually, their data was halted with the end of the war, never to find an answer to what the foo fighters actually were.
Various theories have been offered, such as high-tech enemy devices, remote-control light-producing devices, structureless lights (and therefore not showing up on radar) and of course, UFOs. The theories of unidentified flying objects was so popular that the term foo fighters became synonymous with UFOs themselves.
As late as 1953, the CIA was working on the matter, specifically to determine if there was a security threat. A panel of six scientists, including physicists using experimental aviation tech, gathered on the matter; no official conclusion was provided.
It’s likely that we will never truly know the sources of these dodging lights from WWII. In any case, we’re left with the historic accounts — and a popular term, and an even more popular band — to remember this curious event.
On Aug. 5, 1864, the Union defeated Confederate defenses at the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Mobile was a critical port on the Gulf of Mexico for the Confederates, so it became a priority of Union General Ulysses S. Grant to have it captured in early 1864.
Union Admiral David Farragut had seventeen warships against the Rebel fleet of four, but the South had the CSS Tennessee, said to be the most powerful ironclad afloat at the time. There were also two Confederate batteries inside Forts Morgan and Gaines at Mobile Bay as well as a large minefield made up of what were then called “torpedoes.”
During the Civil War, underwater mines were referred to as “torpedoes” after the seagoing electric ray, known then as a torpedo fish, that could deliver electric shocks. Civil War-era mines were often modified beer barrels filled with gunpowder. If they stayed in the water too long, they could get waterlogged, and the gunpowder rendered useless.
Storming the bay, Farragut quickly lost his iron-hulled USS Tecumseh, after which he allegedly — yet famously — shouted, “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!”
The Union fleet secured a victory, capturing Forts Morgan and Gaines within two weeks, sealing off the port from Confederate blockade runners and boosting Northern morale in what would become a string of Union victories.
Farragut’s victory over the last port on the Mississippi River completely cut the South off from moving cargo that could be sold abroad or importing critical weapons and supplies. It also helped secure an election victory for President Lincoln, ensuring the war would continue until the Federals won.
Featured Image: Admiral David Farragut onboard the USS Hartford.
No other force epitomizes the absolute destructive power humanity has unlocked in the way nuclear weapons have. And the weapons rapidly became more powerful in the decades after that first test.
The device tested in 1945 had a 20 kiloton yield, meaning it had the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT. Within 20 years, the US and USSR tested nuclear weapons larger than 10 megatons, or 10 million tons of TNT. For scale, these weapons were at least 500 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.
To put the size of history’s largest nuclear blasts to scale, we have used Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap, a tool for visualizing the terrifying real-world impact of a nuclear explosion.
In the following maps, the first ring of the blast is the fireball, followed by the radiation radius. In the pink radius, almost all buildings are demolished and fatalities approach 100%. In the gray radius, stronger buildings would weather the blast, but injuries are nearly universal. In the orange radius, people with exposed skin would suffer from third-degree burns, and flammable materials would catch on fire, leading to possible firestorms.
11 (tie). Soviet Tests #158 and #168
On August 25 and September 19, 1962, less than a month apart, the USSR conducted nuclear tests #158 and #168. Both tests were held over the Novaya Zemlya region of Russia, an archipelago to the north of Russia near the Arctic Ocean.
No film or photographs of the tests have been released, but both tests included the use of 10-megaton atomic bombs. These blasts would have incinerated everything within 1.77 square miles of their epicenters while causing third-degree burns up to an area of 1,090 square miles.
10. Ivy Mike
On November 1, 1952, the US tested Ivy Mike over the Marshall Islands. Ivy Mike was the world’s first hydrogen bomb and had a yield of 10.4 megatons, making it 700 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.
Ivy Mike’s detonation was so powerful that it vaporized the Elugelab Island where it was detonated, leaving in its place a 164-foot-deep crater. The explosion’s mushroom cloud traveled 30 miles into the atmosphere.
9. Castle Romeo
Romeo was the second US nuclear detonation of the Castle Series of tests, which were conducted in 1954. All of the detonations took place over Bikini Atoll. Castle Romeo was the third-most powerful test of the series and had a yield of 11 megatons.
Romeo was the first device to be tested on a barge over open water instead of on a reef, as the US was quickly running out of islands upon which it could test nuclear weapons.
The blast would have incinerated everything within 1.91 square miles.
8. Soviet Test #123
On October 23, 1961, the Soviets conducted nuclear test #123 over Novaya Zemlya. Test #123 used a 12.5 megaton nuclear bomb. A bomb of this size would incinerate everything within 2.11 square miles while causing third-degree burns in an area of 1,309 square miles.
No footage or photographs of this nuclear test have been released.
7. Castle Yankee
Castle Yankee, the second-strongest of the Castle series tests, was conducted on May 4, 1954. The bomb was 13.5 megatons. Four days later, its fallout reached Mexico City, about 7,100 miles away.
6. Castle Bravo
Castle Bravo, detonated on February 28, 1954, was the first of the Castle series of tests and the largest US nuclear blast of all time.
Bravo was anticipated as a 6-megaton explosion. Instead, the bomb produced a 15-megaton fission blast. Its mushroom cloud reached 114,000 feet into the air.
The US military’s miscalculation of the test’s size resulted in the irradiation of approximately 665 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and the radiation poisoning death of a Japanese fisherman who was 80 miles away from the detonation site.
3 (tie). Soviet Tests #173, #174, and #147
From August 5 to September 27, 1962, the USSR conducted a series of nuclear tests over Novaya Zemlya.Tests #173, #174, and #147 all stand out as being the fifth-, fourth-, and third-strongest nuclear blasts in history.
All three produced blasts of about 20 megatons, or about 1,000 times as strong as the Trinity bomb. A bomb of this strength would incinerate everything within 3 square miles.
No footage or photographs of these nuclear tests have been released.
2. Soviet Test #219
On December 24, 1962, the USSR conductedTest #219 over Novaya Zemlya. The bomb had a yield of 24.2 megatons. A bomb of this strength would incinerate everything within 3.58 square miles while causing third-degree burns in an area up to 2,250 square miles.
There are no released photos or video of this explosion.
1. The Tsar Bomba
On October 30, 1961, the USSR detonated the largest nuclear weapon ever tested and created the biggest man-made explosion in history. The blast, 3,000 times as strong as the bomb used on Hiroshima, broke windows 560 miles away, according to Slate.
The flash of light from the blast was visible up to 620 miles away.
The Tsar Bomba, as the test was ultimately known, had a yield between 50 and 58 megatons, twice the size of the second-largest nuclear blast.
A bomb of this size would create a fireball 6.4 square miles large and would be able to give humans third-degree burns within 4,080 square miles of the bomb’s epicenter.
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.
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:
It’s not science fiction. It’s what they do every day.
When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.
Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.
And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.
At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.
But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.
The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.
They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.
There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.
The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.
After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.
The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.
A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.
The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.
When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.
The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.
The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.
The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.
The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.