The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer - We Are The Mighty
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The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

Soldiers witnessed the innovation of Army researchers recently during flight testing of 3-D printed unmanned aircraft systems that were created on-demand for specific missions.


The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
John Gerdes, an engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, explains the capabilities of the On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, to Soldiers at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 1, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Angie DePuydt)

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command invited engineers from the Army Research Laboratory to Fort Benning, Georgia Dec. 1-3, to showcase new technology at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE.

“We’ve created a process for converting Soldier mission needs into a 3-D printed On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, as we’ve been calling it,” said Eric Spero, team leader and project manager.

With this concept, once a patrol requires UAV support, Soldiers input all their requirements into mission planning software. The system then knows the optimal configuration for the aerial vehicle and it’s printed and delivered within 24-hours.

“We thought they’re not going to think that’s fast enough, but, actually it was the opposite,” Spero said. “The timeline of 24 hours to receive a mission-custom UAS fits right in line with the way they plan and execute their missions.”

Researchers said they felt the combination of 3-D printing and UAVs was a natural technology solution.

“Drones or quadcopters are really getting big right now, I mean in particular just the commercial and hobby markets have shown what can be done with a small amount of money,” said John Gerdes, an engineer on the project.

“Additive manufacturing or 3-D printing has become huge and everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3-D printers,” he said. “So we figured let’s assemble these two new technologies and provide a solution to Soldiers that need something right now and don’t want to wait for it.”

The team spent many hours flight testing and verifying the designs and to make sure everything was going to work the way they expected.

“It was good that we didn’t have any mistakes on game day,” said fellow engineer Nathan Beals. “The day before we did some test flights and worked out some kinks. I think we had the quad up to 55 miles per hour.”

Spero said based on feedback from Army leaders, his team hopes to work on low noise, long standoff distance, heavier payload capacity and better agility.

“I’m very optimistic that most of those are achievable,” he said. “I think the hardest one that’s going to be achievable is the heavy payload.”

Soldiers at AEWE also became fascinated with 3-D printing technologies, Spero said.

“Before we even started the briefing, we set up the 3-D printer in the conference room and started a print job,” Spero said.

The researchers printed a Picatinny Rail, which is a bracket used to mount accessories on a small arms weapon, such as an M4 carbine. In about two and a half hours, they had a rail that fit the Soldiers’ weapons perfectly.

They asked the group what other kinds of 3-D printed items they could use. In a matter of hours, the team presented a variety of functional printed parts that impressed the Soldiers.

This isn’t just about UASs,” Spero said. “It’s about forward-deployed, 3-D printing to help the Soldier.

The Army engineers continue to collaborate with partners at the Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab as they continue to refine technologies for future Soldiers.

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The Navy has just ordered its fleet to suspend all operations in wake of McCain collision

The day after a collision between the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain (DDG 56) and a tanker in the Strait of Malacca east of Singapore, the Navy is ordering an operational pause.


Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced the order on a Facebook video as search-and-rescue efforts for 10 missing sailors have been hampered by a storm.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the collision is the third since the beginning of May. That month, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) was struck by a South Korean fishing boat. On June 17 of this year, the McCain’s sister ship, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), collided with a container ship off Japan, killing seven sailors.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)

“I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we are taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world,” Richardson said, during his video announcement.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is supporting the investigation, noting that it will address “all factors, not just the immediate ones” surrounding the collisions. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona, the son and grandson of the Navy admirals for whom USS John S. McCain is named, stated that he expects “full transparency and accountability from the Navy” regarding the reviews and investigations.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2.(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

The John S. McCain has been notable for taking part in “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea this past November. Ironically, the ship suffered the collision with the tanker near an island that is the subject of a dispute between Singapore and Malaysia. A Singaporean helicopter airlifted four casualties off the McCain.

The Strait of Malacca is a notable maritime chokepoint, through which substantial merchant traffic travels, including oil imports for countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. Singapore served as a base for British forces for many years, enabling them to control that chokepoint, much as Gibraltar helps control the western entrance into the Mediterranean Sea.

 

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These new muzzle devices make us hot and bothered

The last few weeks have seen several new muzzle devices make their way into the marketplace. Comps, brakes, flash hiders — we’ve seen quite an array of ’em. Here are three that caught our eye.


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

Remember: at the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you that 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.

1. Faxon MuzzLok

There are actually two of these: the GUNNER, a 3-port muzzle brake, and the FLAME, a triple prong flash hider. The two new devices follow in the footsteps of Faxon’s Loudmouth single-port brake.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Faxon Flame Muzzle Device.

The FLAME is described as being capable of “virtually eliminating” secondary ignition at the mouth of the muzzle, thus making muzzle flash nearly non-existent (their claim — we haven’t tested to verify).

The GUNNER, for its part, is designed to reduce recoil by 50%, making it ideal for competitive shooters. Both are designed to function with 5.56mm and .223 Rem. platforms. Both feature concentric 1/2 x 28 TPI threads, and both retail for $59.99.

Nathaniel Schueth, the Faxon Director of Sales and Product Development, had this to say:

“We are thrilled to be expanding the MuzzLok line of products with the GUNNER and FLAME devices. Both meet shooters’ objectives for versatility and recoil or flash reduction. The GUNNER and FLAME for 5.56 are just the first of many more devices to come using MuzzLok technology.”

GUNNER 3 Port Muzzle Brake:

Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel

Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride

Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI

Weight: 2.9 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut

Length: 2.4 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut

Diameter: 0.9″

Caliber: .223/5.56

FLAME Tri Prong Flash Hider:

Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel

Finish:  QPQ Salt Bath Nitride

Thread:  1/2″-28 TPI

Weight:  3.36 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut

Length:  2.6 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut

Diameter:  0.9″

Caliber:  .223/5.56

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Faxon Gunner Muzzle Device.

2. LANTAC Dragon 

The Dragon muzzle brake (officially the “Dragon DGN556B-QM”) shouldn’t be confused with their Drakon or other Dragon models. This one is manufactured to be GemTech QM compatible, making it their first to be designed for use with silencers.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
LANTAC Dragon.

This muzzle device is threaded in 1/2 x 28 for 5.56mm, but we’re reliably informed they’ll be building 7.62 and other versions soon. Unfortunately, despite putting out word of the Dragon over a month ago, it has yet to show up on their website, so we can’t give you an MSRP or any additional details.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
LANTAC Down Range Photography.

All we can do is suggest you check ’em out online or follow their social media for updates (on Instagram @lantac_usa).

3. VLTOR Narwhal

The VLTOR Narwhal is described as a “mix of a brake and a flash suppressor [that] directs blast forward.” It uses an expansion chamber rather than a blast chamber, and as you can see is available from Rainier in a limited edition Stickman version.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
VLTOR Narwhal Muzzle Brake.

Says VLTOR,

“The VLTOR Weapon Systems VC-NRWL muzzle device gives a unique spin on utilizing gas and blast to help rifles function reliably as well as many other features. The muzzle device directs blast and sound forward and away from the shooter by pushing blast out in one direction. This makes the weapon more controllable and helps eliminate muzzle rise to keep the forend of the weapon on a level sight view.

While being an excellent muzzle device for any 5.56/.223 rifle, the VC-NRWL stands out in short barrel applications by allowing backpressure to be utilized for cycling as well as in situations of weak ammunition.”

Some other things to know – it comes with a crush washer, can be installed and clocked with a 1 in. open end wrench, is 3.04 in. long, weighs 5.4 oz. and is Made in the USA.

If you wanna know more than that, you gotta go look for yourself.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
VLTOR Narwhal Muzzle Brake.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

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These 6 military hacks won’t work in civilian life

Transitioning from the military can be tough for a lot of reasons. There’s the trip to buy a civilian wardrobe, the lost camaraderie, and the sudden absence of awesome problem-solving tools.


Few things are as frustrating as spending hours with an HR rep talking out something you could’ve solved in uniform in minutes with one of these 6 techniques:

1. Take it to the woodline (or the boiler room, or wherever)

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Michael Walker

When service members simply can’t find common ground, they dip into a secluded space and duke it out. Win, lose, or draw, the fighters don’t come back until they’ve made peace with each other. But this isn’t exactly an accepted way to settle the temperature setting of the office thermostat.

2. 10 minutes prior to the 10 minutes prior

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

Padding the timeline allows commanders and planners to know that everyone will be in position on time for a mission … because the troops had to arrive three hours early to inspect gear, practice movements, and just sit around wondering why they’re awake so early. Civilians really don’t go for arriving at 6 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. meeting. Try this at the office and someone is getting a call from the union.

3. Working parties and troop details

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

Need to get a row of 12 massive connexes unpacked in a single day? Then first sergeant needs four people from each platoon.  Since the military owns all of the time of its members and those members are trained above all else to work together, the military can just throw men at a problem until it’s solved. But imagine a bunch of accountants being sent from their spreadsheets and calculators to put up tents.

That’ll go well . . .

4. Acquired gear

When units need something too quickly for the supply office to take care of it, there’s an ancient military tradition of “acquisition” that will get what you need as long as no one asks questions. The civilian world has too many bean counters and snitches for this to work though. If a copier mysteriously appears in one department, someone will check the serial number to learn where it came from.

5. “Suck it up and drive on.”

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Harry Brexel

Of all the techniques here, this is the one that many civilians most need to learn. Troops know that they don’t go to sleep until the mission is done, their weapon is clean, and someone is on watch. If you’re tired or in pain, suck it up and drive on. It’s also known as, “Ruck up.” Tell your co-workers to ruck-up and your supervisor may be asking why he’s on tap to pay massive amounts of overtime.

6. Call for fire

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: Crown Copyright/Staff Sgt. Mike Harvey

There’s not a lot of problems that 155mm artillery rounds or a nice BRRRRRT from an A-10 can’t solve. In the civilian world, solving problems head on instead of working the system often results in nothing but more problems.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This carbine was the predecessor to the AK-47

The AK-47 assault rifle is one of the most classic firearms of all time. It has seen combat all across the world — in the both the hands of national armies and various non-governmental entities, like terrorist groups, insurgencies, and drug cartels. But did you know there was a predecessor to the AK-47?


That rifle is the SKS, which, arguably, is responsible for popularizing the 7.62x39mm cartridge used in the AK-47. Officially, it was known as the SKS-45. This rifle, in some senses, is fairly similar to the M1 Garand. It’s semi-automatic (meaning it fires one shot each time the trigger is pulled) and has an internal magazine (albeit one loaded with stripper clips instead of the en bloc clip used by the M1). The SKS holds ten rounds of ammunition.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Communist China made over eight million SKS rifles, including those held by these sailors with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

Seeing action from World War II to the War on Terror

Some of the SKS prototypes saw action against Nazi Germany in World War II, but the rifle didn’t have a long service career with the Soviet Union. The AK-47’s introduction quickly shifted the stock of SKS rifles into the hands reserve units or allies. Other Soviet-friendly nations, including Communist China, produced it under license. The Chinese made at least eight million of these rifles.

In China, their version of the SKS, the Type 56 carbine, served for a long time alongside their version of the AK-47, called the Type 56 assault rifle. After the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese conflict, both of these weapons were replaced by the Type 81 assault rifle. Despite that, Russian and Chinese SKS rifles continue to see action across the world — the rifles are prominently mentioned in a 2003 report about guerrilla warfare in East Timor and have been spotted in the eastern portion of Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels are fighting the central government.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Many SKS rifles were passed on to Soviet allies during the Cold War. (DOD photo by CMSgt Don Sutherland)

 

Because the rifle is not capable of fully-automatic fire, the SKS has been imported into the United States for the civilian market, where it has gained a lot of popularity. The SKS may have first seen action over 70 years ago, but it will likely see use, in one capacity or another, for decades to come.

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Here’s how Russia would win if the war against the US came down to artillery

In a hypothetical war with Russia, the U.S. holds a lot of advantages. America’s Air Force and Navy are the largest in the world. The U.S. military is an all-volunteer force while Russia’s military is still reliant on conscriptions to fill out the ranks.


But there is one area of a conventional war where Russia holds a real advantage: artillery. While America has evolved into a leader in precision artillery fires, Russia has continued to build on its range and ability to deliver massed fires, which are more important factors in an artillery battle between armies.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
A U.S. Army Paladin fires at night. Photo: US Army Spc. Ryan Stroud

The U.S. Army worked hard for its precision. Artillery presents a lot of natural challenges to accuracy. The arc of the round and the time of flight, anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, means that the environment gets a lot of chances to blow artillery off target.

Plus, artillery crews can’t usually see their targets or where their rounds land. A forward observer calls the guns from the frontline and reads off target data. The gun crew uses this description to fire. The observer will let them know if they hit anything, what corrections to make, and how many more rounds are needed.

Target movement makes the challenge even harder. Crews still have to rely on the observer, but against moving targets they also have to hope that the target won’t change its direction or speed in the 30 seconds to three minutes that the round is flying to the target.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: US Army Cpt. Angela Chipman

But the U.S. managed to create precision fires by spending a lot of time and money on laser and GPS-guided artillery rounds that can steer during flight. It also trained its crews for maximum accuracy even when using more traditional rounds.

Because of this innovation and work, American artillery crews could engage enemy forces within a couple hundred meters of friendly troops as long as the observer agrees to a “Danger Close” mission and the crew double checks their math. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan could drop rounds near schools and mosques while remaining confident they wouldn’t destroy any friendly buildings.

The problem is this precision isn’t as necessary in a fight against another nation state. After all, if the enemy has troops camped along a ridge, missing the center by a couple hundred feet wouldn’t matter much. The round would still hit one of the tents or vehicles. And massed fires, shooting a lot at once, would ensure that any specific target would likely be destroyed.

So instead of investing as much as the U.S. did in getting super accurate, Russia invested in getting more guns and rockets that could fire faster and farther.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: Public Domain

Some of those new rockets and guns can fire farther than their U.S. counterparts, meaning that American artillerymen would have to drive their guns into position and emplace them while Russian artillery is already raining down around them.

Russia also invested in new capabilities like drones that pack into rocket tubes and kamikaze themselves against targets as well as thermobaric warheads that fit onto rockets and can be fired en masse. Thermobaric weapons release fuel or metal fragments into the air and then detonate it, creating a massive blast wave and flash fire.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
An American thermobaric bomb is dropped in the desert. (Photo: US Air Force Capt. Patrick Nichols)

These developments have not gone unnoticed by the U.S. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster gave a briefing in May where he talked about the new threats from Russia’s artillery and called for America to get more serious about artillery against a near-peer adversary.

It’s not time to go running under the tables, yet. Russia’s advantage in an artillery duel is partially countered by America’s dominance in the air. Bombers could launch strikes against the most-capable of the Russian guns provided that the guns aren’t defended by Russia’s top-tier air defenses.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Photo: US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske

America also has more numerous and more capable cruise and other long-range missiles than Russia, meaning that there would be opportunities to degrade Russia’s capabilities before the two artillery forces clashed. And America does have great drone and thermobaric capabilities, just not in its artillery corps.

But if America wants an advantage in all areas ahead of a potential war, it’s time to get serious about massed fires once again.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Australia’s Navy relies on one frigate in particular

The Royal Australian Navy has a big job, even though it is a relatively small force. This force relies on one ship as its backbone, the Anzac-class frigate, and those frigates have been on the front lines for Australia and New Zealand.


The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
The Royal Australian Navy Anzac Class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) prepares to conduct an underway replenishment during Rim of the Pacific 2016.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)

According to the Sixteenth Edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, Australia has eight of these vessels in service, while New Zealand has two. These ships can be very powerful, and are based on the MEKO 200 design from Germany, a vessel that has also been sold to Turkey, Algeria, Greece, Portugal, and South Africa.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
HMAS Parramatta, an Anzac class MEKO 200 type frigate of the Royal Australian Navy. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Saberwyn)

Australian Anzac-class frigates are heavily armed. They have an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system for the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, a five-inch gun, eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and the ability to operate a Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopter. They also have Mk 32 launchers for 324mm torpedoes. These vessels have received upgrades for defending themselves against anti-ship missiles. These upgrades are centered around the CEAFAR and CEAMOUNT phased-array radars.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
HMAS Perth (FFH 157) CEAFAR phased array radars. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Hpeterswald)

The New Zealand Anzacs didn’t get the same upgrade, largely due to the collapse of the ANZUS mutual-defense treaty in the 1980s, spurred by New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy. As a result, the Te Kaha and Te Mana have a less-capable system. Their Mk 41 vertical launch system initially only fired RIM-7 Sea Sparrows, and they operate SH-2G Sea Sprites. An upgrade, though replaced the old Sea Sparrows with the Sea Ceptor system from the United Kingdom

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Te Kaha (F 77) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016. (US Navy photo)

These frigates will still be around for a while. Australia plans to replace them with one of three designs (the French-Italian FREMM, the British Type 26m, or a modified Spanish F100) starting in 2024. New Zealand’s will remain in service until 2030.

Check out more about these frigates in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkuzNGj50SQ
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

All Coast Guard National Security Cutters should have ScanEagle drones aboard and available for launch to boost high seas surveillance and aid in drug interdictions and arrests, according to Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Commanders who have used the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, have told him, ” ‘I don’t ever want to sail without ScanEagle again,’ ” Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018, at the National Press Club. “I’d like to see every national security cutter have one on the back.”


For the past 17 years, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center has experimented with various types of UAS, including a helicopter drone and MQ-1 Predator, for cutters but found them unsuited for the Coast Guard‘s dual mission of national security and law enforcement.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle from ScanEagle Guardian Eight Site sits ready for launch.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs)

In 2017, the Coast Guard tested a ScanEagle aboard the cutter Stratton on a six-week deployment to the Eastern Pacific. By the end of the deployment, the drone had flown 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours and assisted the crew in seizing 1,676 kilograms of contraband, valued at million. It also aided in the arrests of 10 alleged drug traffickers, according to the service.

The ScanEagle, made by Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, was developed from a commercial version designed to collect weather data and scan the ocean for schools of fish. The Coast Guard version is about 8 feet long, with a wingspan of 16 feet. The drone is sent aloft by a pneumatic launcher and recovered using a hook and arresting wire.

In June 2018, Insitu announced the signing of a 7 million contract with the Coast Guard for the installation of ScanEagles aboard cutters. In a statement, Don Williamson, vice president and general manager of Insitu Defense, said when ScanEagle initially deployed with the Stratton, “We recognized what an incredible opportunity we had to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring dynamic improvements to mission effectiveness and change aviation history.”

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle conducts flight operation over the USNS Spearhead.

The contract was “an incredibly important first step in realizing the Coast Guard’s vision of fleet-wide UAS implementation,” said Cmdr. Daniel Broadhurst, who has served as unmanned aircraft systems division chief in the Coast Guard’s Office of Aviation Forces.

The fate of the UAS plan and other Coast Guard projects largely will depend on the outcome of the upcoming budget battles in the new Congress, Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018.

Currently, “we’re faced with more demands for Coast Guard services than fiscal resources,” he said.

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

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WATCH: 360-degree skydiver view jumping into the Army-Navy game

If you’ve ever wanted kick-off the Army-Navy rivalry by skydiving into the football stadium during one of their storied showdowns, you should have joined the Army Golden Knights or Navy Leap Frogs.


There’s no way around that.

For the rest of us, here’s an incredible 360-degree video captured by the jumpers during Saturday’s game while the Cadets and Midshipmen marched onto the field. Watch from your phone to pan around the flight path or use the video cursor if you’re watching from a desktop.

Watch: the traditional pre-game Cadet-Midshipmen march-on in 360-degree video

But to get the best experience without physically jumping out of a plane, watch the video on your phone through Google’s cardboard.

USAA, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s insane vertical take-off fighters of the 1950s

Nearly two decades before the Harrier jump jet would prove the efficacy of vertical take-off and landing platforms, the U.S. Navy considered taking another approach to fielding fighters without a runway.

In the years immediately following World War II, the United States found itself trying to adapt its newfound airpower to a world with nuclear weapons in it. America knew its monopoly on atomic bombs wouldn’t last forever, and by the mid 1940s, it seemed clear that the Soviet Union would eventually become the planet’s second nuclear power.

That day came sooner than many expected, when a nuclear detonation at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, ushered in an era of military competition between global powers. In just a few short decades, the combined nuclear weapon stockpile of the U.S. and Soviet Union exceeded 70,000. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction tends to be discussed in terms of just the U.S. and Soviets these days, but with stockpiles that large, it was truly the world that hung in the balance as these two superpowers stared one another down from their respective hemispheres.

Nuclear war and the need for VTOL aircraft

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
(National Nuclear Security Administration)

For some time, nuclear war seemed not only possible, but even likely, as the two nations postured for territory and prestige. Within some defense circles, the question really wasn’t if a nuclear war would break out… but when.

The fact that just 21 years passed between the conclusion of World War I and the onset of World War II is an important piece of context to consider when looking back at the decades immediately following that second great conflict. Military leaders in both nations were largely old enough to have seen not one, but two world wars, each setting a new precedent for war’s horrific destructive capacity. World War III wasn’t a hypothetical concept for much of the world as it is today. World War III seemed like a very real and potentially likely scenario, and the one thing both sides were certain of was that the next global conflict would start the same way the last one had ended: With nuclear weapons.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
(Wikimedia Commons)

While America’s politicians largely saw the concept of nuclear war as the end state of a diplomatic failure, America’s military leaders were stuck in the unenviable position of having to plan to fight and win such a war. That meant finding ways to stay in the fight after the first nukes made landfall, and one way that manifested in a number of military aircraft development programs was the concept of VTOL, or Vertical Take-Off and Landing.

Throughout World War II, the world saw an explosion of aviation infrastructure development, as landing strips popped up in every region of the fight. These airstrips throughout Europe and the Pacific would almost certainly be seen as an imposing threat to the Soviets in a new conflict, as they would provide America and its allies with ample opportunity to launch heavy payload bombers deep into Soviet territory.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
U.S. Air Force B-29s in 1945 (USAF Photo)

As a result, Pentagon brass believed airstrips would be among the first targets of a Soviet nuclear attack. If they were right and the U.S. couldn’t count on having airstrips positioned around the globe to support combat operations, they needed a new fighter that could take off and land without the need for a well-manicured runway.

The U.S. Air Force considered the Canadian flying saucer known as the VZ-9 Avrocar. The U.S. Navy sought their own solution, and by 1950, they had received proposals from both Lockheed and Convair.

The Lockheed XFV “Salmon”

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

While the need for VTOL aircraft was seen all across the Pentagon, the Navy saw vertical take-off and landing platforms as an opportunity to deploy intercept fighters from non-aircraft carrier vessels. In fact, the Navy even considered launching VTOL fighters off of merchant ships in a new World War if necessary.

In June of 1951, Lockheed was awarded a Navy contract to build the XFV-1; a prototype fighter with traditional wings, a massive reinforced X-shaped tail, and a 5,850 horsepower turboprop engine spinning a pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers that made the aircraft look like the bastard child of a helicopter and a prop-driven fighter. Most unusual of all, the aircraft was designed to take off and land on its tail, with its nose pointed straight up in the air.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
(Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed called on famed aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson to design their VTOL XFV, and one could have argued at the time that the program couldn’t have been placed in better hands. Johnson was just coming off of the development of the P-38 Lightning and then America’s first jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star. His long and storied career as an aeronautical engineer eventually included overseeing first of their kind platforms like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk.

For testing, the XFV-1 was fitted with an awkward-looking set of landing gear, which included mounting wheels on the bottom of the lower tail wings. In December of 1953, the XFV-1 got its first taste of the sky when Chief Test Pilot Herman ‘Fish’ Salmon managed to make the aircraft “hop” briefly during taxing tests. Less than a year later, in June of 1954, it would make it all the way into the sky for its first real flight.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
XFV-1 with landing gear attached (U.S. Navy photo)

Unfortunately, the Allison YT40-A-6 turboprop engine installed on the prototype was not powerful enough to manage actual vertical take-offs or landings. Instead, Lockheed planned to use the forthcoming (and more powerful) Allison T54 engine, which would produce 7,100 horsepower, but issues with the engine’s development meant the XFV’s desperately needed power plant would never arrive.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Scaffolding for the pilot to board the XFV-1 (Lockheed)

The prototype XFV-1 did make a total of 32 brief flights and even managed to hover with its nose up for a short period of time, but never accomplished a single vertical take-off or landing.

The Convair XFY Pogo

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(Wikimedia Commons)

Convair’s take on the vertical take-off and landing premise shared a number of similarities with Lockheed’s. Like the XFV, Convair’s XFY Pogo was designed to sit upright on its tail so it could leverage its pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers to take off like a helicopter. Then, once in the air, the aircraft would re-orient itself to fly forward like a traditionally prop-driven plane.

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XFY on a launch cart (Wikimedia Commons)

For its purposes, the Pogo was more successful than Lockheed’s outing. The first outdoor test flights began in August of 1954, and a series of 70 successful vertical take-off and landing drills following shortly thereafter. By November of that year, the team at Convair with test pilot and Marine reservist, Lieutenant Colonel James F. “Skeets” Coleman at the stick, achieved their first successful transition from vertical flight to horizontal. In order to make the transition easier, the pilot’s seat within the cockpit was mounted on gimbals that oriented the pilot at 45 degrees in vertical flight mode and 90 degrees when flying horizontally.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
(U.S. Navy Photo)

Despite its successes, subsequent test flights began to reveal problems with the VTOL upright fighter’s very premise. While flying, the Pogo lacked airbrakes or spoilers to help it slow down after high-speed flight, but more troubling was just how difficult landing the unusual aircraft could be. Pilots had to look over their shoulder and back to the ground as they slowly lowered the fighter down onto its tail. Eventually, a low-power radar system was installed that would help the pilot gauge their altitude with a series of lights, but landing was still risky. It quickly became apparent that the Navy’s plan to put these fighters on a wide variety of non-carrier vessels just wouldn’t work, because only the best pilots in the force had a chance at landing the plane.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
(U.S. Navy photo)

Further damning the concept were jet fighters of the era that were reaching speeds as high as Mach 2, while the prop-driven vertical take-off fighters the Navy was testing couldn’t even break the sound barrier. Ultimately, the concept was scrapped, damning both the Lockheed and Convair vertical take-off fighters to life in museums by the end of 1956.

Ultimately, the U.S. Navy would invest heavily into fixed-wing and sweep-wing carrier-based fighters like the F9F Panther, the F-14 Tomcat, and the F/A-18 Hornet. However, vertical or short take-off fighters did still find their way into America’s arsenal. The U.S. Marines began flying the AV-8A Harrier in 1971, and today, Marines are experimenting with using amphibious assault ships to launch sorties of the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators

Last week rapper Nicki Minaj performed a concert in Angola, which is not necessarily a big deal except she reportedly received $2 million dollars for the show from Unitel, a mobile phone company owned by the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos has been in power in Angola for 36 years and is widely considered a dictator.


Minaj posted photos of herself with the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos on her Instagram, saying:

“Oh no big deal…she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world. (At least that’s what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

According to an open letter to Minaj from the The Human Rights Foundation, the Dos Santos family make their money through “exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth to amass an illegitimate fortune while maintaining control over all branches of the government, the military, and civil society … it his policy to harass, imprison, or kill politicians, journalists, and activists who protest his rule.” Minaj performed the show anyway, which she has a right to do. There are no limitations for visiting or working in Angola.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
. . . unless you’re an Angolan diamond miner. Then you’re not allowed to stop working.

There is still the stigma of legitimizing what is one of the top most corrupt governments in the world (the most in southern Africa). But Nicki Minaj is not the first star to perform for a questionable government. Here’s a rundown of a few other A-listers who’ve been willing to make despot’s toes tap:

1. Jennifer Lopez -Berdymukhamedov’s Turkmenistan

“We wish you the very, very, happiest birthday,” Lopez said to Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before singing to him at a huge celebration in his central Asian country.

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Sparkly outfits are par for the course when serenading someone who built a gold statue of himself.

Human Rights Watch calls the Berdymukhamedov regime “one of the most repressive in the world, marked by new levels of repression.” Berdymukhamedov seized power in 2007 after the only person more mad than he is, Saparmurat Niyazov, died. (Niyazov changed his language’s word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after the book he wrote, and once tried to build a permanent structure made out of ice in the middle of the desert). Berdymukhamedov proceeded to honor himself with a giant bronze and gold statue of his likeness in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.

2. Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Usher, Bon Jovi and 50 Cent – Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya

Leaked diplomatic cables confirm Queen Bey and Company performed gigs at parties thrown by Qaddafi’s sons Hannibal and Mutassim in Italy and St. Barths. All four claim they donated their fees to earthquake relief in Haiti. Also, Lindsay Lohan was there.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
It was that kind of party.

Hannibal escaped Libya during the civil war that ousted his father. He was briefly taken captive in Lebanon this month but was set free soon after. Mutassim got his around the same time as his father, when he was captured by Libyan rebels outside of Sirte. The rebels stabbed him in the throat.

3. Nelly Furtado – Also Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya

Around the same time as Beyoncé’s work with the Qaddafi family came out, Furtado self-identified on Twitter. She was paid $1 million to perform for the family at an Italian hotel in 2007. (Which seems remarkable because few can name two Nelly Furtado songs without googling her, and the Qaddafis liked her enough to buy an entire concert.) Still, Furtado wasn’t Colonel Qaddafi’s true love. We all know who that was:

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Hint: It’s not the Cleveland Browns.

The singer promised to give the money away to an unnamed charity. In 2012, she released a song called Arab Spring.

4. Michael Jackson – King Hamad’s Bahrain

It’s hard to call a U.S. ally a dictatorship, but while half their bicameral legislature features elected officials, the other half is appointed by the King who can rule by decree. When the late King of Pop fled there in 2005 after being acquitted of child molestation charges, the Khalifa family provided for him in exchange for a private show and a recorded album.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
While we’re on the subject, can we talk about why some pop stars start dressing like dictators?

While the singer took the money from the dictator, he never made good on the promise of a performance or a recorded album, so maybe Jackson was performing a service by swindling the monarch.

5. Sting – Karimov’s Uzbekistan

In 2009, Sting performed for a man who’s best known for boiling his enemies alive. Islam Karimov’s rule was celebrated via a festival funded and planned by his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, the “Uzbek Princess.”

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Uzbek dictator Islam Karim shaking hands with one of the few guys on the planet who scare him.

The Uzbek regime is the dictatorship likened closest to North Korea. Karimov is so power mad, he sees his daughter’s popularity as a threat, jailing her and her family in her home. Sting accepted a $2 million payment for his performance. Sting refused to apologize, saying he believed that boycotts only isolate dictator-ruled countries. Karimov banned Sting’s music shortly afterward because the Police alum called him a dictator.

6. Lionel Richie – Qaddafi’s Libya. Again.

Richie was the first to perform for the dictator’s family inside Libyan borders, though it was a celebration of Qaddafi surviving a U.S. attack on his compound in Tripoli, in front of the bombed-out compound which Qaddafi never rebuilt. The singer has never spoken about the performance.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

7. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers – Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire

Sese Seko put on a festival celebrating his rule in what he called Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The dictator, who would go on to embezzle $5 billion, put up the cost of the Zaire 74 Festival, which was promoted by famed boxing promoter Don King as part of the build up to the Mohammed ali-George Foreman fight (dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle”).

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

8. Kanye West – Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan

The rapper was hired to perform at the wedding of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson. The former Russian Soviet Republic is sharply criticized by human rights organizations for its serious violations and deteriorating situation.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
If there’s any pop star who actually has a personality cult like a dictator, it’s probably Kanye.

Yeezy was paid a reported $3 million for his appearance, which was recorded on Twitter and Instagram. Kanye West was able to express himself at the mic, unlike the rest of Kazakhstan, a nation suffering a harsh and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression and political plurality with the imprisonment of outspoken opposition and civil society activists.

9. Mariah Carey – José Eduardo dos Santos’ Angola

Yeah, same dictator, same place. Carey performed in Angola in 2013 at the behest of her manager, Jermaine Dupri, whom she would fire the next year.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

This wasn’t the first time Carey performed for a dictator. In 2010, she publicly apologized for a 2008 New Year’s celebration performance, which is a nice segue to . . .

10. Mariah Carey – Qaddafi’s Libya

She was paid an undisclosed sum for performing for the Qaddafi family at a private residence in St. Barth’s. As part of  her penance, she reminded everyone how much money she regularly gives to charity even as she pocketed her payment and released a statement:

“I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for, I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.”

Indeed.

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Boko Haram militants nabbed with shopping list of sex, VD drugs

The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has a track record of brutality.


The group is most notorious for its kidnapping of over 200 girls from a school near the town of Chibok and selling many of them into sexual slavery.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s put it this way – Boko Haram easily falls into former Gen. Jim Mattis’s “fun to shoot” category (although the use of drones, cruise missiles, artillery and carpet-bombing should not be ruled out).

But what does it take to keep this bunch of scumbags going?

As the old saying goes, amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.

Well, some answers emerged recently when two of the terrorists on a supply run were taken out by the Nigerian military. They had two FN FAL rifles and a grand total of 18 rounds of ammo between them. Nigerian troops also recovered a three-page shopping list that would make porn star blush.

According to a report by the Premium Times, the contents of the list included a request for cartons of Viagra and various “libido enhancers.” Among them were a coffee enhancer known as Maxman, Viamax coffee (itself a libido enhancer) and MMC Sex Men.

The men were also supposed to acquire various drugs for the treatment of venereal disease. Capsules for treating gonorrhea were mentioned on the list, but the Boko boys were also seeking various injectable drugs.

The sex-supply run was not a surprise to the Nigerian military, who in 2015 noted that raids on the terrorist group’s camps revealed loads of condoms, libido enhancers and even hard drugs.

Conspicuous by their absence were copies of the Koran, and many of the Boko Haram terrorists captured by the Nigerian military couldn’t recite any portion of that religious text.

Seems like Boko Haram doesn’t recruit holy warriors, they attract sex-crazed crooks.

Breitbart News reported that the debauchery is not just limited to the Nigerian terrorist group, which declared its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in March 2015. Islamic State militants also have engaged in sexual slavery, and doctors forced to work for that group report that many of the fighters they treat demand Viagra.

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This video game company has pledged to help 50,000 vets find jobs

It’s a video game series beloved by troops deployed to recent battlefields and has become as common in squad bays as dip and energy drinks.


And now thanks to efforts by its designer, Activision, the non-profit that bears its name has broken its own record, placing more than 25,000 unemployed, post-9/11 vets in good jobs two years ahead of schedule.

Established in 2009 by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, the Call of Duty Endowment has pledged more than $18 million to businesses and other service groups to help them place post-9/11 veterans in high-quality careers with a solid understanding of the benefits former servicemembers bring to the table.

The Call of Duty Endowment set a goal of placing 25,000 vets in partner companies by 2018. But after reaching that bar in 2016, the non-profit announced it will double the goal by 2019.

“The Endowment’s efforts have had a direct and positive impact on the lives of so many who have given so much,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Co-Founder of the endowment. “With U.S. veteran unemployment rates still well above the national average, we are committed to continuing our efforts and have established a new, ambitious goal to secure employment for 50,000 veterans by 2019.”

According to a statement, the Call of Duty Endowment uses a “performance-driven approach” to vetting potential partners and after earning a grant, the endowment works with grantees and employers to “provide an array of advice and support aimed at maximizing their impact.”

The non-profit says the average cost to put a veteran on the payroll of its company partners is less than $600, compared to $3,000 for government-assisted employment services for vets.

The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

“Finding quality, meaningful employment is essential for a veteran to successfully transition back to civilian life,” said former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones, Co-Chairman of the endowment. “The Call of Duty Endowment is truly making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of military veterans and their families.”

The endowment has already donated $18 million to get vets back to work and boasts an average $50,000 starting salary with 94 percent placed in full-time jobs.

“Twenty-five thousand veterans is equivalent to every individual recruited by the U.S. Navy in 2015, and we’ve achieved this goal by applying common sense business practices to philanthropy,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the endowment. “We’re grateful for the support from Activision Blizzard, our partners and the gaming community, and are proud of what our grantees have achieved in such a short period of time.”

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