Articles

The 7 weirdest nuclear weapons ever developed

Nuclear weapons are in their own class, completely separate from every other kind of weapon in the arsenal. But, not all nuclear weapons are created equal. Here are the weirdest ones that saw service in the U.S. military.


1. Jeep-mounted recoilless rifle: the Davy-Crockett (1956)

The Davy Crockett had a 10 or 20-ton yield, depending on the type. There were two launchers for the Crockett, one of which would be mounted on Jeeps. Crocketts would be deployed with mortar platoons who would aim the weapons into Soviet troop and tank concentrations, poisoning the Russians with extreme levels of radiation within a quarter-mile radius of the point of impact.

2. Air-to-Air Missiles: AIR-2 Genie (1957) and AIM-26 Falcon (1961)

Before effective surface-to-air missiles or guided air-to-air missiles, America was looking for a way to shoot down large formations of enemy planes.

One idea was to fire an unguided air-to-air nuclear missile. Enter the AIR-2 Genie. Fielded in 1957, it was capable of being fired from an American fighter and the 1.5-kiloton blast was lethal to 300 meters. To prove to the American public that the missile could be safely detonated over American cities, a single Genie missile was detonated as five Air Force officers stood below it.

Four years later, a guided missile entered service. The AIM-26 was capable of a 250-ton nuclear explosion and chased its target using semi-active radar.

3. Nuclear torpedo: Mark 45 anti-submarine torpedo (1963)

Photo: Cliff, Wikimedia Commons

Designed to kill enemy subs, the Mark 45 was guided by wire. Triggering the 11-kiloton detonation required a command from the firing sub. The nearly 19-foot torpedo had a range of 5 to 8 miles.

4. Rockets: UUM-44 SUBROC (1963)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The UUM-44 was a submarine-launched rocket that would exit a sub, ignite its rocket engine, leave the water and fly to a predetermined point. There, the rocket would separate and the warhead would fall into the water as a depth charge, detonating at a programmed depth and killing enemy subs. With its 5-kiloton nuclear warhead, the SUBROC wasn’t really worried with direct hits.

5. Land mine: atomic demolition munitions (1964)

Photo: DoD

Though commonly referred to as nuclear land mines, ADMs were really designed as area denial weapons where the bombs would be detonated ahead of advancing troops, triggering rockslides and poisoning the environment. Special versions could also be dropped behind enemy lines with two-man teams who would use the bombs to destroy ports, power plants, or communications hubs. Since they could be remotely detonated, the ADMs could be used as mines as long as a human stayed within the remote’s range and waited for the advancing enemy. They had a nuclear yield between .5 and 15 kilotons.

6. Artillery: M65 Atomic Cannon (1953) and M198 (1963)

There were a variety of nuclear artillery shells in the U.S. arsenal (China, India, and Pakistan still have them), most of them arrived in the field between 1953 and 1963. Initial models were like the M65 in the video, large-caliber rounds with large warheads delivering 15-20 kilotons of boom. The nuclear punch got smaller as smaller rounds were developed, ending with a 155mm round that delivered 72-ton yield.

7. Cryogenically-cooled bombs: Mark 16 (1954)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Mark 16 only served in an emergency capacity from January 1954 to April 1954. Based on the designs of the first thermonuclear bomb ever fired, the Ivy Mike, the bombs contained deuterium that had to be constantly cooled to below -238 Fahrenheit. They delivered 6-8 megatons (a megaton is 1,000 kilotons) of destruction, but were rendered obsolete by the successful testing of solid fuel thermonuclear bombs that didn’t require cooling.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veterinarians help wounded dog after suicide blast

Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.

Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.


Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.

According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.

On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”

Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.

In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”

Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.

“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”

Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.

“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”

Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.

“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”

At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.

“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”

Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.

“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”

But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.

“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”

DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.

“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”

Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.

“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.

“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airborne for old guys

Here is a great information piece from an Army Soldier who completed the US Army Basic Airborne Course (BAC) at age 42. He has always been a great runner but needed to focus on the PT for the arms and legs to prepare for the landings / regular PT.

Phil Lowry is a JAG officer with the Utah National Guard. Here is his story of how to survive BAC during your late 30’s and early 40’s:


Airborne School poses particular challenges for Soldiers over 35 (which under the reg is the normal age cutoff for Airborne students). Those challenges come in two forms: (1) the PT test, and (2) the accumulating burdens of falling down a lot.

The PT test is very handily addressed in Stew’s preparation book for the Airborne School. Pay particular attention to the timed drills, since as we age our ability to make explosive movement decreases. Timed drills allow you to retain the muscle memory required to efficiently do 42 pushups and 53 situps in under two minutes (hopefully in less than 90 seconds).

Remember that the PT test is done in washed river gravel, about the size of almonds. That means that the pushups will be done on a plank, a strange feeling. The plank may not be wide enough for those of you who prefer a wide stance. It wasn’t wide enough for me (I like about 27 inches of space between the inside of my hands). Be sure to be able to comfortably pass the pushups at about a 25-inch stance. I found the situps to be easier in the gravel. Wiggle yourself into a depression before you begin so you are comfortable.

As for the falling down – there is a reason that there are not many football players older than 40. You will fall in a variety of ways in Airborne school. First, during ground week, in the 34-foot tower you will be falling in a harness onto a zip line, at least 6 times-if you master your exit. One guy in my stick went out the 34-foot tower 22 times. That takes a toll on the pinch points around legs, crotch and chest. It also taxes your neck to fall while tucking your chin in an ACH.

You will fall a lot more when learning parachute landing falls. Young guys tend to “get” PLFs quickly. Older guys can master it quickly, also, especially natural athletes. But if you are not very coordinated, or have to “unlearn” a technique (a martial arts forward roll, or a combat roll learned in combatives), you will be falling off the lateral drift apparatus (LDA) a lot. It does not really hurt at any given time, but it slowly but surely gives you bruises all over. It can also be very hard on your neck as you have to keep your chin tucked in all of your landings. A lot of bells get rung. Also, while in the PLF pit the only way you can travel is by bunny hopping with your feet and knees together. Sounds easy – until you do it for four hours.

During tower week, in the swing line trainer, you will fall even more. The SLT tends to hurt more than the LDA, since it is more realistic and harder to master. Mass exits in the 34-foot tower are comparatively easy, but come on the last day when you are beat. The two different harness training exercises are also easier, but once again give you that wonderful “pinching” feeling.

Learn more about Army Airborne PFT.

And, of course, there is jump week, where you put it all together, along with five 1/2 to 1-mile hikes at double time across a very soft drop zone that is as hard to run in as a newly plowed field. The manner of carrying the parachute, especially when hucking a combat load, puts a lot of stress on your already sore neck.

How does an oldster get ready for this? Some practical exercises:

1. Increase your endurance sets for your upper body, and try to use methods that engage large and small muscle groups in both power and stabilizing moves. Dumbbells are better than barbells, calisthenics are really good.

2. Focus on pullups. You need them to pull on your risers. But make sure not only your lats are strong, but also your hands and your forearms. Rock climbers do drills on these extremities-you should, too. Old guys tend to pull muscles in these areas more easily (I did), and it takes us longer to heal if we do.

3. Focus on your neck. There are a variety of techniques and exercises in published material that can help with both neck strength and endurance. The PLF puts a lot of strain on your neck (better your neck than your head). Even the youngest students complain about their necks at the end of ground week. It’s worse when you’re older. Also, get used to your ACH before you go to Airborne. You will always have it on whenever you train. It is a good idea to run or ruck with your ACH on as an endurance exercise. This will help your neck.

4. Run in boots. You will be doing so at Airborne. Get used to it. High-tec boots (Exospeeds, etc.) are authorized at Airborne.

5. Do more running than you need for the APFT. You should probably do at least half as much running as recommended by the training guide.

6. Endurance is more important than mass or strength, in all areas. Muscles with high endurance are highly vascularized, and so they heal quickly, and are less likely to be injured in the first place. Airborne training does not really require explosive strength-it requires efficient repetitive taxing motion, with the ability to absorb repetitive mild trauma.

7. The PT at Airborne is easy. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the APFT and preparing for the actual training. That way, when you do PT, you won’t worry about aggravating a training injury (try doing pullups with a pulled forearm muscle. Better to avoid pulling the muscle in training in the first place than having to baby it in morning PT).

8. Be ready for having to perform even if hurt. Cope and compensate as you can-there is no periodicity to the training. All of us oldsters had to suck it up, most of us more than once. I jumped three times on a badly bruised knee; a 43-year-old master sergeant jumped three times on a mildly sprained, but very painful, ankle.

The upside to being older at Airborne is that you will likely deal better with the mental stress that your physical ailments and the training environment place upon you.

“Remember, there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. You are all hurt-you are about to jump out of a plane for the fifth time. None of you are injured. Injured means you are in the hospital.” stated the First Sergeant, Charlie Company, 1/507 PIR, BAC.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Glock puts the brakes on the Army’s new handgun

It came right down to the wire, but as expected, one of the competitors for the Army’s $580 million program to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9 handgun has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office.


Austrian handgun maker Glock — one of the finalists in the XM17 Modular Handgun System program — filed its protest over the selection of Sig Sauer Feb. 24, according to the GAO. No details were released with the protest filing.

The protest was first reported by the Army Times.

It is not uncommon for finalists in a program of this scale to file a protest, experts say. And with the Army forecasted to purchase up to 290,000 handguns — not to mention buys from other services following on the Army’s heels — the XM17 program is one of the most high-profile weapons buys in the past decade.

Read More: Here is how the Army’s XM17 handgun program will likely go down

But it’s surely a disappointing blow to New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer, who submitted a version of its P320 modular handgun and was tapped as the winner in mid-January. As is typical in these types of high-stakes contracts, Sig was tight lipped when asked for comment on the protest.

“Sig Sauer looks forward to providing our U.S. service members the very best tools to ensure mission accomplishment, but we have no comment related to the MHS contract at this time,” said Sig Sauer marketing director Jordan Hunter in an email statement to We Are The Mighty.

According to the GAO, government auditors have until June 5 to issue a ruling on whether the award complied with government contract law. The program is suspended until the GAO makes its ruling, officials say.

While Sig Sauer has offered the commercially-available P320 modular handgun since 2014, few have seen Glock’s submission. Glock has no commercially-available modular handgun that can change caliber and frame size using different parts.

But Glock handguns are increasingly popular among U.S. service members, with most special operations troops being issued Glock 19s and the Marine Corps phasing out its MARSOC 1911 pistols in favor of Glocks.

For years, SEALs carried Sig Sauer P226 handguns, but even that community is moving toward issuing Glocks.

In March 2016, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned against the service executing a costly, time-consuming program like the XM17 for something as simple as a new handgun.

“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Milley said. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Articles

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

Cheyenne Mountain is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

 

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force wants new, cheap, lightweight planes

The US Air Force started the second phase of its Light Attack Experiment on May 7, 2018, putting the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine aircraft through more testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Air Force officials have touted light-attack aircraft as a cheap option to address low-end threats, like ISIS or other militant groups, and free up advanced platforms, like the F-22 and F-35, to take on more complex operations.


Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein has described the light-attack aircraft as part of a networked battlefield, connecting and sharing information with partner forces in the air and on the ground.

“We’re looking at light attack through the lens of allies and partners,” Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A big part of the Light Attack Experiment is a common architecture and an intelligence-sharing network, so that those who would join us would be part of the campaign against violent extremism.”

Phase 2 of the experiment

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

The latest phase of the Light Attack Experiment will be a three-month, live-fly experiment intended to gather more information about each aircraft’s capabilities, networking ability, and potential interoperability with partner forces, the Air Force said in a release.

The first phase of the experiment took place at Holloman in August 2017, with four aircraft. In February 2018, the Air Force announced that it had narrowed the field to the two current aircraft.

The second phase at Holloman comes in lieu of a combat demonstration, which Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in February 2018, the service would forgo.

“This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack,” Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said in the release.

Fighter, attack, and special-operations pilots will take part in this phase of the experiment, working with test pilots and flight engineers from the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. They will carry out day and night missions doing air interdiction, close air support, armed overwatch, and combat search and rescue.

Addressing the Air Force’s pilot shortage

Adding light-attack aircraft to the fleet would mean more airframes on which pilots could train in order to maintain their qualifications and prepare to transition to more advanced aircraft — helping address a pilot shortage caused in part by bottlenecks in the training pipeline.

Two Afghan A-29 Super Tucanos flies over Afghanistan during a training mission before the beginning of the 2017 fighting season, March 22, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

“If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for,” Bunch said in the release.

The Air Force has not committed to pursuing a contract for a light-attack aircraft after the experiment, however. Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for requirements, told Flight Global that the Air Force hasn’t made a final decision, though he said service has reserved more than $2 billion over the next six years should it go forward with production.

Critics have said operating such aircraft, even in permissive environments, will expose pilots to more risk.

“The last time the US did this in Vietnam, oh boy, it really wasn’t pleasant,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for aerospace-consulting firm Teal Group, told Air Force Times in February 2018. “They took a lot of casualties, for predictable reasons. It’s low, it’s slow and vulnerable, and the air defense environment has become a lot more sophisticated.”

The A-29 Super Tucano is already in service with the Afghan air force, and Wilson said in 2017 that none of those aircraft had been shot down in 18 months of operations.

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

Articles

Bombs for bases — Russia establishes permanent naval port in Syria

With Russia’s announcement of a new permanent naval base in Tartus, Syria – long a port used by Russian (and prior to 1991, Soviet) forces, Moscow’s expansion into that war torn country continues even as the Assad regime is wracked by civil war.


But Russia has had a long history in the Med.

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. (Photo from Wikimedia)

Tartus Naval Base has been used by the Russians since 1971. In those 45 years, it served as a forward operating location for the Fifth Eskadra (5th Operational Squadron). This unit was intended to counter the presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Med. The base had not been able to permanently support major vessels like the Kuznetov-class carrier; the Kirov-class battlecruisers; the Slava-class cruisers; or even modern destroyers and frigates in Russian service. The new construction at the base is intended to make it a permanent base for carriers and larger vessels as opposed to just a place to park.

The Fifth Eskadra was formed in 1967 after the Egypt-Israel Six Day War. The Soviets had been unable to find a way to inflict damage on the Sixth Fleet in the event of a war with the United States. This was not a solid strategic position from its perspective, and Russian naval legend Sergei Gorshkov pestered his superiors until the unit was formed.

The unit usually consisted of as many as 80 vessels, including two guided-missile cruisers and a number of smaller escorts like the Mod Kashin-class destroyer or Krivak-class frigate, ten diesel-electric submarines, and a host of auxiliary vessels. The Sixth Fleet usually had half that total, but much of its strength would be concentrated in a carrier battle group which could make life exciting (not to mention short) for the Soviet vessels.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians disbanded the Fifth Eskadra at the end of 1992 — a little over 25 years after the squadron was formed. Two decades later, in 2013, the Russians re-formed the squadron as the Syrian civil war heated up.

Now with about 10 vessels, it is a shadow of the force that faced off with the Sixth Fleet. Still, it is a sign that Russia is reasserting itself in the region.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane

The U.S. Air Force anticipates that a number of F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, during Hurricane Michael were damaged by the storm, an official said Oct. 12, 2018.

“A number of aircraft were left behind in hangars due to maintenance or safety reasons, and all of those hangars are damaged,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well, but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”

Neither the extent of the damage nor how many fighters were left behind was disclosed.


Officials also did not describe what maintenance was taking place that led officials to leave the jets at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing moved.

The damage could hamper operations for the already dwindling Raptor fleet as the Defense Department aims to restore its fighter readiness rates.

While some aircraft have come out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

An Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The Pentagon last estimated the F-22 unit cost at 9 million in 2009, roughly 3 million in today’s money. The last F-22 was delivered in 2011. But in a classified report submitted to Congress in 2017, the Air Force estimated it would cost “6 million to 6 million per aircraft” should it ever want to restart the production line for newer, more advanced F-22s.

The DoD said that would amount to approximately ” billion to procure 194 additional F-22s.”

Roughly 120 fifth-generation stealth Raptors are combat-coded, or authorized to perform in wartime operations, at any given time. But the platform’s mission-capable rate has decreased over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16, F-35 and F/A-18 to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

An F/A-18 lands on the flight deck USS Theodore Roosevelt.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Luke Williams)


In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office said the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

In October 2018, an F-22 at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson made an emergency landing on a base runway. Photos showed the jet, from the 3rd Wing, leaning on its left side, which the Air Force said was the result of a landing gear malfunction.

The latest incident comes months after an F-22, also assigned to JBER’s 3rd Wing, experienced engine failure April 6, 2018, during a routine training flight at Tyndall. Days preceding the engine failure, another F-22 experienced a belly skid at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

  • 5 additional bomber squadrons
  • 7 more fighter squadrons
  • 7 additional space squadrons
  • 14 more tanker squadrons
  • 7 special operations squadrons
  • 9 combat search-and-rescue squadrons
  • 22 squadrons that conduct command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
  • 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
  • 1 more airlift squadron

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The new PWS Diablo AR-15 pistols are somethin’ else

The new PWS Diablo AR15 pistols give us the warm ‘n’ fuzzies.


A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.

Remember: At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just a “be advised”, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.

Grunts: Orgulous.

PWS recently released a limited run of AR15 pistols, and while it’s too late to get one in hand for Christmas, it’s not too late to ask for one. Why? Two reasons:

One, its close kin to the Diablo AR pistolDiablo, as you already know if you’ve ever watched Talladega Nights, is Spanish for “fightin’ chicken.”

Two, they make snow-dicks at their headquarters during the winter.

True story, and one that might stem from or more of the large number of veterans PWS employs.

We can explain…

There are actually two new pistols, both using the PWS long stroke *snicker* piston system. That system is something of a bastard offspring, merging elements of the Kalashnikov operating system with that of the Stoner. More on that below.

Both pistols use the Maxim Defense CQB Pistol EXC, a so-called “cheek rest” that runs something like $400 by itself. The EXC is a well regarded brace, and its use reduces overall weight.

The pistols are available in .223 Wylde or 300BLK, and with a 7.75 in. or 11.85 in. barrel, but the MK1 MOD1-P (Patrol) version features a forged receiver set with forward assist and uses a KeyMod rail, while the MOD2 uses PicMod, with a proprietary upper receiver with lightening cuts and no forward assist.

Barrels are machined there in-house at the PWS facility in Idaho; they’re rifled with a 1:8 twist.

Now, speaking of bastard offsprings, if you’re not already familiar with the PicMod system from Bootleg, you should check it out. PicMod itself is the love child of Pic rails and KeyMod.

In addition to providing the utilitarianism of having two mounting systems, it will allow you to tuck accessories like a WML in really tight too.

Simple math.

There’s a reason Bootleg is one of the AR companies the NRA thinks you should know.

Grunts: utilitarianism. We may not be using that correctly, but you already knew that.

Both weapons ship with the PWS CQB Comp, a muzzle device designed to tame muzzle blast and improve rifle control at short distances.

Here’s a quick look at that long stroke *snicker* piston system:

 

If you’re looking for more details about the CQB Comp, you can learn more about the various PWS muzzle devices in a blog post from earlier this year on Rogue Dynamics (here). Here’s what they had to say about the CQB:

“At first glance it looks like some gimmicky, wannabe-sound suppressor, but just a few rounds later and it’s clear that this is something else. The CQB was specifically designed for SBRs that would be running in close quarters, with rounds going off inches from friendly forces.”
 

Read more about Primary Weapon Systems in Frag Out! magazine. They can be located on the interwebz at primaryweapons.com and are on Instabookface too: @primaryweapons, /primaryweapons/.

Take a look behind the scenes of their HQ in this local news piece if you’re interested.

Now, here’s a terrible video explaining Diablo.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Coast Guard busts another cocaine-carrying ‘narco sub’

Coast Guard crew members aboard the cutter Valiant intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean, arresting four suspected smugglers in the process.

The 40-foot vessel, of a type often called a “narco sub” (though most are not fully submersible), was first detected and tracked by a maritime patrol aircraft. The Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multinational body that coordinates law-enforcement efforts in the waters around Central and South America, directed the Valiant to intercept it.


A Coast Guard release didn’t give an exact date for the seizure, saying only that it took place in September 2019 and the Valiant arrived on the scene after sunset.

Coast Guard crew members aboard a “narco sub” in the Pacific Ocean with a suspected smuggler, September 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The cutter launched two small boats carrying members of its crew and two members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. They caught up with the narco sub in the early morning hours and boarded it with the help of the Colombian navy, which arrived a short time later.

The crew members transferred more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine from the sub to the Valiant but were unable to get the rest because of concerns about the sub’s stability. (The total value of the drugs was estimated at more than 5 million.)

“This interdiction was an all-hands-on-deck evolution, and each crew member performed above and beyond the call of duty,” Cmdr. Matthew Waldron, commanding officer of the Valiant, said in the release.

Members of a US Coast Guard cutter Valiant boarding team transfer narcotics between an interceptor boat and a suspected smuggling vessel in September.

(US Coast Guard)

2 ‘momentous events’

Narco subs have appeared in the waters between the US and South America for years and have only gotten more sophisticated. But they are still homemade vessels, often built in jungles in Colombia, and can be unsteady on the open ocean, particularly when law enforcement stop them to board.

Narco subs typically cost id=”listicle-2640583643″ million to million to built, but their multimillion-dollar drug cargoes more than make up for the expense.

“Colombian traffickers like to use the semi-submersibles because they are hard to detect” and cheaper than full-fledged submarines, Mike Vigil, former director of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider in 2018.

The vessels are typically made of fiberglass and the most expensive component is the engine. Some even have lead linings to reduce their infrared signature, Vigil said.

Bales of cocaine seized from a suspected smuggling vessel on the deck of the US Coast Guard cutter Valiant in September.

(US Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard in late 2017 said it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile smuggling vessels like narco subs.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels — 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in an October 2018 interview.

Schultz and other Coast Guard officials pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure. The service has pursued what Schultz called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

For the Valiant, that meant this particular bust coincided with a mariner’s milestone: crossing the equator.

“There are no words to describe the feeling Valiant crew is experiencing right now,” Waldron said. “In a 24-hour period, the crew both crossed the equator and intercepted a drug-laden self-propelled semi-submersible vessel.”

Both are “momentous events in any cutterman’s career,” Waldron added. “Taken together, however, it is truly remarkably unprecedented.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Brightest light in universe detected after mysterious space explosion

Two violent explosions in galaxies billions of light-years away recently produced the brightest light in the universe. Scientists caught it in action for the first time.

The explosions were gamma-ray bursts: short eruptions of the most energetic form of light in the universe.

Telescopes caught the first burst in July 2018. The second burst, captured in January 2019, produced light containing about 100 billion times as much energy as the light that’s visible to our human eyes.


Gamma-ray bursts appear without warning and only last a few seconds, so astronomers had to move quickly. Just 50 seconds after satellites spotted the January explosion, telescopes on Earth swiveled to catch a flood of thousands of particles of light.

“These are by far the highest-energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst,” Elisa Bernardini, a gamma-ray scientist, said in a press release.

Over 300 scientists around the world studied the results; their work was published Nov. 20, 2019, in the journal Nature.

The Hubble Space Telescope imaged the fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C (center of the green circle) and its home galaxy.

(NASA, ESA, and V. Acciari et al. 2019)

50 seconds to capture the brightest, most mysterious light in the universe

Gamma-ray bursts happen almost every day, without warning, and they only last a few seconds. Yet the high-energy explosions remain something of a mystery to scientists. Astronomers think they come from colliding neutron stars or from supernovae — events in which stars run out of fuel, give in to their own gravity, and collapse into black holes.

“Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe and typically release more energy in just a few seconds than our sun during its entire lifetime,” gamma-ray scientist David Berge said in the release. “They can shine through almost the entire visible universe.”

After the brief, intense eruptions of gamma rays, hours or days of afterglow follow.

An illustration depicts a gamma-ray burst.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Telescopes have observed low-energy rays that come from the initial explosion and the afterglow.

“Much of what we’ve learned about GRBs [gamma-ray bursts] over the past couple of decades has come from observing their afterglows at lower energies,” NASA scientist Elizabeth Hays said in a release.

But scientists had never caught the ultra-high-energy light until these two recent observations.

On Jan. 14, 2019, two NASA satellites detected an explosions in a galaxy over 4 billion light-years away. Within 22 seconds, these space telescopes — the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope — beamed the coordinates of the burst to astronomers all over Earth.

Within 27 seconds of receiving the coordinates, astronomers in the Canary Islands turned two Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes toward that exact point in the sky.

On January 14, 2019, the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) observatory in the Canary Islands captured the highest-energy light ever recorded from a gamma-ray burst. This illustration of that event also shows NASA’s Fermi and Swift spacecraft (top left and right, respectively).

(NASA/Fermi and Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State University)

The photons flooded those telescopes for the next 20 minutes, leading to new revelations about some of the most elusive properties of gamma-ray bursts.

“It turns out we were missing approximately half of their energy budget until now,” Konstancja Satalecka, a scientist who coordinates MAGIC’s searches for gamma-ray bursts, said in the release. “Our measurements show that the energy released in very-high-energy gamma-rays is comparable to the amount radiated at all lower energies taken together. That is remarkable.”

The large central H.E.S.S. telescope array in Namibia detected the light from a gamma-ray burst on July 20, 2018.

(MPIK / Christian Föhr)

Ultra-high-energy light came in the afterglow, not the explosion itself

The photons detected from a gamma-ray burst six months earlier, in July 2018, weren’t as energetic or as numerous as those from the January explosion.

But the earlier detection was still notable because the flow of high-energy light came 10 hours after the initial explosion. The light lasted for another two hours — deep into the afterglow phase.

In their paper, the researchers suggested that electrons may have scattered the photons, increasing the photons’ energy. Another paper about the January observations suggested the same thing.

Scientists had long suspected that this scattering was one way gamma-ray bursts could produce so much ultra-high-energy light in the afterglow phase. The observations of these two bursts confirmed that for the first time.

Scientists expect to learn more as they turn telescopes toward more gamma-ray bursts like these in the future.

“Thanks to these new ground-based detections, we’re seeing the gamma rays from gamma-ray bursts in a whole new way,” Hays said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Union general challenged Karl Marx to a duel

The history of Communism goes way far beyond the rise of Vladimir Lenin and the Soviet Union. The idea of a class struggle had been kicking around before Marx even started writing Das Kapital. In fact, the idea of a worker’s paradise was much more popular in even the United States before the Bolsheviks went and killed the Americans’ friend Tsar Nicholas II. There were even avowed Communists in the Union Army fighting the Civil War.


J. Edgar Hoover does not approve.

In the days well before the Communist revolutions that put the Red Scare into everyday Americans, everyday Americans weren’t totally against the idea. One such American was Johann August Ernst von Willich, a Prussian-born American who emigrated to Ohio in 1853. Less than a decade after coming to his adopted homeland, the Civil War broke out, and the man who dropped his noble Prussian titles and settled on being August Willich, a newspaper editor from Cincinnati soon took up the Union blue as Brigadier General August Willich.

Before coming to the United States, however, he led a very different life.

Okay, maybe a similar life but for different reasons.

Born into a military family, Willich’s father was a Prussian captain of the Hussars, an elite light cavalry regiment. His father was killed in the Napoleonic Wars that ravaged Europe in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. He was sent to live with a relative who sent him to military schools in Potsdam and Berlin. He was soon a distinguished Prussian Army Artillery officer. But his experiences in wartime Europe began to change his political views.

At a time when much of Europe was still raging over the idea of republicanism and democracy versus long-established monarchies, Willich was just turning Republican when he decided to leave the Prussian Army. After a brief court-martial, he was allowed to resign. Then he lent his martial skills to the wave of political uprisings engulfing Europe in 1848. From Spain in the West to Hungary in the East, and Sweden in the North to Italy in the South, regular working people were tired of the conditions of their daily lives, under the boot of absolute monarchs and began to rise against their entrenched kings and queens – with varying degrees of success.

Thomas Jefferson approves.

But Willich’s views were much further to the left than mere Republicanism allowed. Willich was forced to flee to London after the uprisings of 1848 were largely put down. That suppression only strengthened his resolve and pushed him further. He became a Communist to the left of even Karl Marx, a man considered by Willich and his associates to be too conservative to be the face of the movement. While Willich’s friends plotted to kill Marx, Willich simply insulted the writer publicly and challenged him to a duel. Marx declined, but a close friend of Marx decided to fight the duel – and was wounded for his troubles.

Willich then came to the United States working in Brooklyn before making the trek to Ohio. When the Civil War broke out, the onetime Prussian field commander raised an army of Prussian-Americans and took the field with the Union Army at Shiloh, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Kennesaw Mountain, among other places. Willich would rise to the rank of Brevet Major General, having fought in the entirety of the Civil War.