These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century - We Are The Mighty
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These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Today’s most sophisticated aircraft are like something out of science fiction.


In a few years, drones that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand and 117-foot-wingspan behemoths capable of launching satellites into space will both be a reality.

At the same time, drone and advanced-fighter technologies will spread beyond the US and Europe, and countries including China, Russia, and Iran will have even more highly advanced aerial capabilities.

Here’s our look at the most game-changing aircraft of the past few years — and the next few to come.

F-35 Lightning II

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 program may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. But the fifth-generation fighter jet is also supposed to be the most fearsome military aircraft ever built, a plane that can dogfight, provide close air support, and carry out bombing runs, all with stealth capabilities, a high degree of maneuverability, and the ability to take off and land on aircraft carriers.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way so far, and problems with everything from the plane’s software system to its engines has both delayed its deployment and contributed to its astronomical price tag. And it isn’t nearly as effective in some of its roles as existing aircraft. For instance, the F-35 is notably worse at close air support than the A-10, which is slated for retirement.

But the US has more than 1,700 F-35s on order. Like it or not, the F-35 will be the US’ workhorse warplane for decades to come.

F-22 Raptor

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/USAF

The predecessor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, currently the most advanced combat-ready jet on earth.

The US is the only country in the world that flies the F-22s thanks to a federal law that prohibits the jet from being exported. Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22s before the last one was delivered to the US Air Force in May 2012.

Despite the program’s cost and the jet’s advanced features, it saw combat for the first time relatively recently, during the opening phase of the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in late 2014.

T-50

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

Russia’s Su-50, also known under the prototype name of the T-50 PAK-FA, is the Kremlin’s fifth-generation fighter and Russia’s response to the F-35.

Though still in prototype, Moscow thinks the Su-50 will ultimately be able to outperform the F-35 on key metrics including speed and maneuverability. The stealth capabilities of the Su-50, however, are believed to be below those of the F-22 and the F-35.

The Kremlin plans to introduce the Su-50 into service by 2016. Once the plane is combat-ready, it will serve as a base model for the construction of further variants intended for export. India is already co-designing an Su-50 variant with Russia, and Iran and South Korea are possible candidates to buy future models of the plane.

Chengdu J-20

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Alexandr Chechin/en.wikipedia.org

The Chengdu J-20, which is currently in development, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter and a potential strategic game changer in East Asia.

The J-20 bears striking resemblance to the F-35 because of Chinese reverse engineering and extensive theft of F-35-related data. Once completed, the J-20 will possess stealth capability along with the range needed to reach targets within Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam after taking off from mainland China.

As of January 2015, Beijing had developed six functional prototypes of the aircraft, with new prototypes being released at an increasingly quick pace. Production of the aircraft reportedly began in late 2015, and the final iteration of the aircraft is expected to be released and combat-ready sometime around 2018.

Eurofighter Typhoon

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Peter Gronemann/Flickr

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine multirole fighter that was originally developed to be the Europe and NATO’s primary warplane.

The fighter jet is Europe’s largest military program and was started by Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK.

In 2011 the Eurofighter was deployed to its first combat mission, to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya during the NATO bombing campaign in the country. There are 402 Eurofighter jets designed for the Austrian, Italian, German, Spanish, UK, Omani, and Saudi Air Forces.

The Eurofighter has been called Europe’s version of America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 Lightning II.

MG-X Silent Hawk

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Imagined model of the MH-X Silent Hawk from the set of Zero Dark Thirty. (Image: Zero Dark Thirty/Universal Pictures)

The military’s secret MH-X Silent Hawk program was publicly disclosed only after one of the helicopters crashed during the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.

It is unclear when the US Army Operations Security’s top-secret helicopter program began and how many of these stealthy aircraft are in service.

While the Silent Hawk appears to be a highly modified version of the widely known UH-60 Black Hawk, there are few unclassified details out there about this secret helicopter.

X-47B

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Northrop Grumman

The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-size unmanned aircraft with the potential to change aerial warfare.

Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapons deployment. It carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history and has taken off from and landed on an aircraft carrier.

It cruises at half the speed of sound and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, more than twice that of the Reaper drone.

Stratolaunch

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Stratolaunch Systems

The Stratolaunch will be one of the most astounding planes ever built.

Now in construction, the plane will serve as a midair launch platform for vehicles that is capable of carrying satellites into orbit. The aircraft, whose 117-foot wingspan will be the largest of any plane ever built, will fly to an altitude of 30,000 feet and then angle upward before blasting its payload into space.

The plane would be a relatively cheap and reusable launch vehicle for satellites and has the potential to revolutionize how hardware and possibly even human beings can access orbital space. It could fly as early as 2016, although the project has faced some setbacks over the past year.

Here’s a video of how it’ll all work:.

X-37B

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Wikimedia Commons

The Air Force’s secretive space drone returned from a two-year mission in October of 2014. It wasn’t clear exactly what the X-37B was doing up there, but it was relaunched on May 20, 2015 for another extended stint in orbit.

With the X-37B, the Air Force essentially has a reusable satellite that it can control and call back to earth. The ability to re-equip an orbital platform for specific mission types gives the US military unprecedented flexibility in how it can use outer space — and its long periods in orbit and reusability are also just impressive engineering feats.

Nano Hummingbird

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo: Youtube

These tiny Darpa-developed surveillance drones could become future military staples. Small enough to evade enemy detection or fire, the Nano Hummingbird can fit in the palm of your hand and relay images and intelligence from the air.

Most surveillance drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are large aircraft that fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet. Drones such as the Nano Hummingbird, which is light, stealthy, and easy to launch, could be a routine part of a future soldier’s inventory.

Watch it in action here:

Iran’s drones

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: IRNA

Iran has been under sanctions and a Western arms embargo for much of the past 30 years, something that has denied Tehran the chance to obtain high-quality European or American arms. But it has forced Iran to build its own domestic capabilities, and in 2013 Iran debuted an armed drone eerily similar to the US’ Reaper, called the Fotros.

It’s unclear whether the Fotros is battle-ready, but Iran and Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy militia in Lebanon — along with the Sudanese military — already fly Iran’s Ababil-3 surveillance drone.

Iran’s drones aren’t game changers because of their high quality but because of what they represent: Even countries chafing under international sanctions can develop their own drone technology with enough patience and technological expertise. The Fotros and Ababil-3 suggest that an era of widespread drone proliferation is just around the corner.

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BRRRRRT: Congress wants the Air Force to keep the A-10 aircraft that troops totally love

After months of impassioned pleas from troops on the ground, hand-wringing from Air Force leadership, and a blur of questions from Congress about the Air Force’s plans for the future, lawmakers have decided enough is enough: the A-10 Thunderbolt II will stay in the USAF arsenal.


These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Smiles all around! (U.S. Air Force Photo)

On Monday, The House Armed Services Committee released its $612 billion Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision called “Prohibition on Availability of Funds for Retirement of A-10 Aircraft,” which obliges the Secretary of the Air Force to:

“commission an appropriate entity outside the Department of Defense to conduct an assessment of the required capabilities or mission platform to replace the A-10 aircraft.”

This means the Air Force’s can no longer ignore Congressional concerns about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and how it can fill the A-10’s close-air support (CAS) role. The provision in the new defense budget means the Air Force will have to actually hire an independent researcher from outside of DoD and acquire hard data on how to replace the A-10, instead of just asserting everything is fine and forcing Airmen to say nice things about the $1.5 trillion F-35.

In the meantime, the Air Force must maintain a mission-capable 171 A-10s and Congress provides $467 million for it in the 2016 bill.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Armored vehicle post-A-10 Close Air Support.

The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, went through the ten paragraphs of the Congressional directive in detail, where Congress list the ways the A-10 bests the F-35 (without mentioning the F-35), directing the Air Force to study and answer for things like the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units …  the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Not only does the provision make the Air Force answerable for attempting to shelve its only CAS solution, it also takes back a compromise between the service and Congress made last year, which allows the Air Force to mothball 36 A-10s and move their maintenance and funding to other areas.

The House of Representatives issued a fact sheet specifically slamming the Air Force for trying to kill the A-10 with an adequate replacement.

“Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided…” it reads. “The NDAA restores funding for the A-10 and prohibits its retirement. Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the NDAA identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, the A-10 fleet.”

While this sounds like good news for A-10 supporters, the fight isn’t over yet. According to DoD Buzz, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said he is recommending President Obama veto the bill, which is being voted on by the House on Thursday.

NOW: The awesome A-10 video the Air Force doesn’t want you to see

OR: Here’s why the Warthog is the greatest close air support aircraft ever

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The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”

“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.

“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”

Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.

The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.

Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.

But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.

“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”

Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.

“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”

“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”

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Iranian drone nearly collides with US Navy Super Hornet

An Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle nearly collided with a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet preparing to land on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The incident occurred Aug. 8.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the Iranian QOM-1 drone came within 100 yards of the Super Hornet assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA 147), forcing the pilot to take evasive action. That squadron is assigned to the Nimitz, which has been on deployment to the Persian Gulf where it has been supporting anti-ISIS operations.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
An Iranian drone in flight. (Image: IRNA)

“The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 in the known vicinity of fixed wing flight operations and at coincident altitude with operating aircraft created a collision hazard and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a post on their Facebook page.

The action marked the 13th incident involving Iran that was either unsafe, unprofessional, or both, in 2017, according to a Defense Department statement. In multiple instances, American ships have been forced to fire warning shots at the Iranian forces who have acted in an unsafe manner, and a Marine Corps helicopter was targeted by an Iranian laser. 2016 also saw a number of incidents between Iranian and American vessels, as well as threats directed towards American aircraft.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

The vast majority of the unsafe encounters with Iran have involved naval vessels. These incidents involving aircraft have usually involved Russian or Chinese planes and American units. In one notable incident, Russian Su-24 “Fencers” buzzed the destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78).

Late last year, American ships, notably the Arliegh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) were fired at by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles.

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Of course, ‘Happy Hour’ started with bored sailors

Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, U.S. troops occupied the Mexican port at Veracruz. The occupation came at a cost to both sides: the Americans lost 20 sailors over the course of killing 150 Mexicans.


The violence leveled off after a few weeks, and life in the city became relatively routine. War correspondents traveling with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet became bored with the calm and started to focus on the troops’ everyday life in the hopes that that might yield something their readership would respond to. One of these headlines was “The ‘Happy Hour’ Aboard Ship Makes Tars Contented.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

According to the Early Sports Pop Culture History Blog, one well-meaning Navy officer, Lieutenant Jonas Ingram, originated the practice of “Happy Hour” aboard his ship, the USS Arkansas. Since the Arkansas was the flagship of Admiral Charles Badger, the commander of the Atlantic Fleet, officers encouraged its spread to the other ships of the fleet and into the ships of the wider U.S. Navy. The practice would carry on throughout the coming world wars.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Admiral Badger doesn’t give a sh*t.

The Arkansas‘ Happy Hours included athletic competitions (usually boxing), dancing, and a band while at sea. The enlisted men on board couldn’t drink, as per Navy regulations since 1899 (though officers could). In port, dancing girls from local bars were the center of the fun. The sailors ashore had easy access to liquor. Navy regulations at the time only prohibited the sale or issue of booze aboard ship, not the consumption on land.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

When sailors and soldiers returned home from the Great War, they introduced the idea of “Happy Hour” into the American vernacular. The idea of “happy hour” as we know it came from the use of the term in a “Saturday Evening Post” article in 1959, entitled The Men Who Chase Missiles. The article was about U.S. Air Force airmen working at remote island outposts in the Caribbean and how they saved money by not having anywhere to spend it… unless they spent it all at the local watering hole.

“Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar – and there are few of these – the money mounts up fast.”

The USS Arkansas, once a state-of-the-art modern battleship, found itself obsolete at the end of World War II and did its country one last service – this time in a more of an academic research role.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

 

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Here are the most likely US targets for a nuclear attack

Since the Cold War, the US and Russia have drawn up plans on how to best wage nuclear war against each other — but while large population centers with huge cultural impact may seem like obvious choices, a smarter nuclear attack would focus on countering the enemy’s nuclear forces.


So while people in New York City or Los Angeles may see themselves as being in the center of the world, in terms of nuclear-target priorities, they’re not as important as places in states like North Dakota or Montana.

Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” says that after the Cold War, the US and Russia shifted from targeting each other’s most populous cities to targeting each other’s nuclear stockpiles.

This map shows the essential points Russia would have to attack to wipe out the US’s nuclear forces, according to Schwartz:

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Skye Gould/Business Insider

This map represents targets for an all-out attack on the US’s fixed nuclear infrastructure, weapons, and command and control centers — but even a massive strike like this wouldn’t guarantee anything.

“It’s exceedingly unlikely that such an attack would be fully successful,” Schwartz told Business Insider. “There’s an enormous amount of variables in pulling off an attack like this flawlessly, and it would have to be flawless. If even a handful of weapons escape, the stuff you missed will be coming back at you.”

Even if every single US intercontinental ballistic missile silo, stockpiled nuclear weapon, and nuclear-capable bomber were flattened, US nuclear submarines could — and would — retaliate.

According to Schwartz, at any given time, the US has four to five nuclear-armed submarines “on hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch.” Even high-ranking officials in the US military don’t know where the silent submarines are, and there’s no way Russia could chase them all down before they fired back, which Schwartz said could be done in as little as five to 15 minutes.

But even a strike on a relatively sparsely populated area could lead to death and destruction across the US, depending on how the wind blew. That’s because of fallout.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Dangerous radioactive fallout zones shrink rapidly after a nuclear explosion. Bruce Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The US has strategically positioned the bulk of its nuclear forces, which double as nuclear targets, far from population centers. But if you happen to live next to an ICBM silo, fear not.

There’s a “0.0 percent chance” that Russia could hope to survive an act of nuclear aggression against the US, according to Schwartz.

So while we all live under a nuclear “sword of Damocles,” Schwartz said, people in big cities like New York and Los Angeles most likely shouldn’t worry about being struck by a nuclear weapon.

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One of NATO’s most deployed anti-air missiles is getting a major upgrade

The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.


These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is shot from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.

Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.

The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.

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You’d better get used to the M4 carbine because it’s here to stay

When Eugene Stoner first introduced his aluminum and plastic Armalite rifle that would later become the basis for the M16 and M4, he scarcely could have imagined his little black rifle would still be in the hands of infantrymen more than 50 years later. Yet, after dozens of conflicts, Stoner’s lightweight automatic rifle persists — though it’s been modernized along the way.


The M16 evolved into the M16A1 all the way through M16A4 before being retired to non-frontline units. But along the way a shorter, handier carbine version was introduced. The earliest version of the M4 that featured most of the telltale aspects of the design was the CAR-15 SMG. Despite being labeled a submachine gun, the CAR-15 SMG still used the 5.56mm cartridge.

The SMG featured an overly-complex (yet functional) collapsible stock, shortened barrel and fixed carry handle. The biggest difference between early versions of the M16 and modern variations is modularity. Older models needed either modification, or special components to attach accessories like tac lights, lasers or optics. Yet underneath the anodized aluminum shell of every M4, lies the original M16.

Why does this matter? Because it shows that the M4 (in one form or another) is here to stay. It may evolve and grow, but the rifle itself will likely only leave U.S. service when something truly revolutionary emerges. Not a different rifle, nor a different caliber, but a different method of launching projectiles than smokeless powder altogether.

Imagine the cost and logistical nightmare of replacing all M4 rifles in service with all branches of the military. The price would be staggering. And that’s largely why the Army balked at replacing the M4 several years ago — too expensive, and not enough of a “leap” in technology to justify the cost.

The only way Congress would green light a true replacement weapon system is if something arrived that instantly made all modern firearms obsolete.

What would that weapon be? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what that might look like, but it’s reasonably simple to determine what it wouldn’t do – launch solid projectiles.

First on the chopping block – solid or liquid-fueled rockets. Sounds obvious, but inventor Robert Mainhardt successfully built a series guns that fired small rockets known as microjets back in the late 1950s. While the rifles (really launchers) had many issues, the core problem that could never be solved is the lack of velocity close to the muzzle.

Whereas gunpowder-propelled bullets are at their peak velocity at the muzzle of the barrel, rockets accelerate much more slowly. So at close range the rounds would be ineffective. Add to this the complex nature of the round’s construction and the limited magazine capacity due to projectile size, and any weapon utilizing these rounds is objectively inferior to the M4.

What about magnets? The concept of a railgun isn’t new and has been around since the World War I, and the German air force even designed anti-aircraft batteries of railguns in WWII – but these never even reached prototype status. The biggest issue has been power supply, the large magnets required to launch projectiles at hypersonic speeds consume insane amounts of energy.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego. The railguns are being displayed in San Diego as part of the Electromagnetic Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the U.S. and allied navies, industry and academia to discuss directed energy technologies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop/Released)

Modern physicists and engineers have successfully developed methods of magnetic propulsion that don’t require as much power, and have made railguns feasible. So feasible that railguns are currently being developed by the US Navy with one slated to deploy on a vessel this year.

For the uninitiated, the advantage of these guns over traditional cannons or guided missiles has to do with the incredible velocities of the projectiles themselves. When the Army worked alongside the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Electromagnetics, they found that railguns could fire a 4-pound tungsten rod at nearly two miles per second, or 6,840 mph. At this velocity, the round not only defeats the armor of a main battle tank like the M1 Abrams, it passes clean through both sides.

Sounds great, but currently the technology isn’t capable of being scaled down for use by individual soldiers. Also, the amount of power required still isn’t man-portable with current battery technology. Though even if it were, railguns are currently single-shot weapons, making them inferior to the M4 in close combat or urban fighting.

So what is the likely replacement for the M4? As crazy as it sounds, a directed energy weapon. Think more Star Trek than Star Wars – weaponized lasers would offer an enormous advantages over solid projectile firearms and cannons.

One of the largest benefits of a laser weapon would be velocity. With your beam traveling at the speed of sound and being relatively unaffected by gravity. So hitting a distant target wouldn’t require adjusting for wind or drop. But that’s impossible, right?

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Actually, the United States and Israel have been developing and deploying a Tactical High Energy Laser for more than a decade. Israel’s IDF even used the THEL to shoot down 28 incoming Katyusha rockets in 2000. Like the railgun, the THEL is currently far too massive and consumes too much power to be man-portable. But, the same thing was said about computers only a few decades ago. Who knows, maybe the M5A2 laser carbine is only a decade away.

Until then, the US military is stuck with upgrading, tweaking and tuning the M4 carbine. It might not be bleeding edge tech, but the old warhorse still accurately slings lead further than most soldiers can see, and it doesn’t weigh a ton.

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Disbanded Israeli commando unit returns for counter-terrorism mission

Israel is reestablishing a storied commando unit disbanded in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War to help the country battle today’s terrorist enemies.


According to a report in ShephardMedia.com, the unit is already in operation, and has returned to help bolster units capable of specialized counter-terrorism missions. In this case, the operations may be centering on the Gaza Strip, currently controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Officers with the Kfir Brigade practice fighting in built-up areas. (IDF photo)

“The IDF has a need for a special unit capable of operating in Palestinian areas,” Capt. Ben Eichenthal, the unit’s deputy commander, told ShephardMedia.com.

IsraelHayom.com reports that the unit will specialize in military operations in urban terrain and also in “subterranean operations.” Israel has been trying to locate tunnels dug in order to facilitate smuggling into the Gaza Strip. On June 1, two such tunnels were discovered under schools run by the United Nations Refugee Welfare Agency.

While Haruv will have operators trained as snipers, anti-tank units and engineers will not be assigned to this unit, which will be roughly the size of an infantry battalion. The unit has been assigned to the Kfir Brigade – which holds five other counter-terrorist units, the Nachshon, Shimshon, Duchifat, Lavi and Netzah Yehuda battalions.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Israeli troops with the Kfir brigade prepared for urban combat. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The original “Haruv” unit fought in the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War. Its best-known operation was in ending an airline hijacking in August, 1973. According to Isayeret.com, the unit also specialized in carrying out border security missions on Israel’s border with Jordan.

The earlier Haruv unit carried out a number of its operations in the Gaza Strip. During its eight years in operation, it also carried out ambushes and pursuit missions in the Jordan Valley. In the wake of the Yom Kippur war, the Israeli Defense Forces disbanded special operations units at the regional command level.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

A member of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuels a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II during forward area refueling point training at Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Feb. 11, 2016. A single A-10 usually receives approximately 2,000 pounds of fuel in a four- to five-minute span during FARP training but the C-130 Hercules can provide tens of thousands of pounds of fuel if needed.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman

A B-2 Spirit bomber sits on the flightline prior to takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., for Red Flag 16-1 Feb. 2, 2016. Established in 1975, Red Flag includes command, control, intelligence and electronic warfare exercises to better prepare forces for combat.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik

Ohio Air National Guard members work in the early morning of Feb. 16, 2016, to remove snow from the flightline and fleet of C-130H Hercules at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. The Ohio ANG unit is always on mission to respond with highly qualified citizen Airmen to execute federal, state and community missions.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Royal Australian Air Force Sgt. Angus Shaw, a 37th Squadron loadmaster, left, talks with two 4th Squadron combat controllers aboard a C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise Cope North 2016 over Rota, Northern Mariana Islands, Feb. 12, 2016. Exercise The exercise includes 22 total flying units and nearly 3,000 personnel from six countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable and beneficial relationships within the Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks

ARMY:

A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

A soldier, assigned to 3d Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security during a convoy halt at the Operations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 12, 2016.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

Army pilots, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division train with members of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue team off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 16, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel K. Johnson

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 16, 2016) U.S. Navy Sailors with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group prepare MV-22B Ospreys with Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 166 Reinforced to take off from the USS New Orleans. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit will be operating in the Pacific and central Commands area of responsibilities during their western pacific deployment 16-1.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2016) Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a tethered flag during a training demonstration. The Navy Parachute Team is based in San Diego and performs aerial parachute demonstrations around the nation in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.

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U.S. Navy photo by James Woods

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine provides security for his team during the night portion of a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or TRAP, training scenario at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 18, 2016. TRAP is used to tactically recover personnel, equipment or aircraft by inserting the recovery force to the objective location. The Marine is with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Marine Corp photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Lance Cpl. Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, fires a mounted M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun from the back of the MV-22B Osprey during a live fire training session off the coast of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., Feb 10, 2016. Marines with VMM-365 flew to a landing zone, which allowed pilots to pratice CALs in their Osprey’s and then flew several miles off the coast to practice their proficiency with the .50-caliber machine gun.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guardsmen stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro from Kodiak, Alaska, conduct helicopter in-flight refueling while on patrol in the Bering Sea, Feb. 15, 2016.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
USCG photo

U.S. Coast Guard Station New York is helping theU.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrate their 75th anniversary in style!

From the beaches of France and Iwo Jima in World War II, to the shores of the U.S. gulf coast for Deepwater Horizon, the USCG Reserve has been always ready.

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Photo by Petty Officer LaNola Stone

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The Coast Guard’s “Homing Pigeon” saved 126 lives on D-Day

The coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet” was comprised of 60 wooden, 83-foot cutters that performed dangerous lifesaving missions under fire at Normandy, pulling more than 400 men from the water.


One of these vessels was known as the “Homing Pigeon” and successfully saved 126 survivors, the most of any single ship.

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The Homing Pigeon, officially named Coast Guard Cutter 16, had been serving stateside on anti-submarine patrols like the rest of the Matchbox Fleet before recieving orders to a new, secret mission. Navy Adm. Ernest King was going to use 60 of the Coast Guard ships to form Rescue Fotilla One, a D-Day lifeguard force.

The ships were repainted, renumbered, modified, and carried to England on frieghters. They practiced the landings on English beaches with the rest of the invasion force and, on Jun. 6, 1944, the rescue ships went in right behind the first wave of landing craft.

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Photo: US Coast Guard

The plan had originally called for the Matchbox Fleet to stay away from the shores and some ships did stay two miles out. But many crews realized that they had to get closer to reach the men in danger and the Homing Pigeon was one of the cutters that moved forward.

It began its mission at 5:30 a.m., sailing back and forth near the coast and grabbing men out of the water. In the first four hours CGC-16 rescued 90 sailors and soldiers. That’s a save every three minutes.

The crew took the personnel they fished out of the water to the Navy’s USS Dickman where the wounded were treated. Over the course of the day, the Homing Pigeon would come to the aid of another 36 men, bringing the crew’s D-Day total to 126, all tallied on a board on the vessel.

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Photo: US Coast Guard photo courtesy of Terry Hannigan

Other crews distinguished themselves at Normandy as well. CGC-1 rescued 43 and spent much of the day within 2,000 feet of the beaches. CGC-34 pulled 32 British troops and sailors from the English Channel. CGC-53 rescued five men while under fire from a German shore battery. The HMS Rodney came to the cutter’s rescue and destroyed the shore battery with its naval guns.

After D-Day, the Matchstick Fleet continued their duties until Dec. 1944 when they were disbanded. In the seven months of operation, the 60 ships saved 1,438 people. Many of the ships were then transferred to allied navies where they served for the duration of the war.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of June 24th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fires flares during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 21, 2017. The F-15, a component of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, supports U.S. and coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride

U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander, looks back to his wingman during his final F-22 Raptor flight over Charlottesville, Va., June 21, 2017. The Raptor is a 5th-generation fighter jet that combines stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Natasha Stannard

Army:

Soldiers of the 100th Battalion donned Ghillie suits, June 18, 2017, in preparation for their mock ambush on opposing forces during their annual training at Kahuku Training Area.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Gail Lapitan

An M1A1 Abrams from Task Force Dagger plays the role of Opposing Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the 278th Armored Brigade Combat Team with a near-peer opponent during the unit’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation May 30 – June 21. Task Force Dagger consisted of the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s forces and was supplemented by units from five other states during the exercise.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Warner

Navy:

The Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) is underway alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) during a replenishment-at-sea. Kidd is underway with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob M. Milham

Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) prepare to participate in an M9 pistol shoot on the ship’s port aircraft elevator. The ship and its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Evan Thompson

Marine Corps:

Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. For the first time, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy

U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, exit a CH-53E from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 772, 4th Marine Air Wing, MARFORRES, to perform a rehearsal for the Air Assault Course as a part of the battalion final exercise for Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, June 21, 2017. ITX is a Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training exercise featuring combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy

Coast Guard:

A 25-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) conducts a coastal safety and security patrol while escorting Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, back to Magic Island, Oahu, June 17, 2017. The Hōkūleʻa returned home after being gone for 36 months, sailing approximately 40,000 nautical miles around the world.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

A member of the U.S Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s silent drill team waits prior to performing at a sunset salute program, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The team performed in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the festivities surrounding Sail Boston.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

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11 things a military buddy would do that a civilian BFF probably won’t

Here’s a short list of things military buddies would do for each other that civilian friends probably won’t:


1. Check out a rash

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Blades of Glory, Dreamworks

2. Skip the pleasantries and get right to calling ‘bulls-t’

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Terminal Boots, YouTube

3. Tee up a minor issue just to get a rise

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Goodfellas, Warner Bros.

4. Have a buddy’s back, no questions asked

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Casino, Universal Pictures

5. Give a hand loading stuff that explodes

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

6. Cuddle under a woobie to stay warm

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Photo by Paul Avallone

7. Not complain about a buddy’s weight

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Forrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

8. Go above and beyond, like this guy who volunteered to be a POW for his buddies

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Cpl. Tibor Rubin, Holocaust survivor and Prisoner of war hero. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rubin was credited with saving the lives of 40 prison mates by sneaking out of the camp every night and back in every morning, stealing food and medical supplies from his captors and local farms.

9. Jump on a grenade . . . a real one

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Cpl Kyle Carpenter receiving the Medal of Honor. Photo: The White House

… and do it again if required

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photos: Wikipedia/Department of Defense

Jack H. Lucas jumped on a grenade twice to save his buddies and lived. He was also the youngest man to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

10. Ignore the most agonizing pain

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Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe Photo: US Army

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe pulled six other soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle while drenched in fuel and covered in flames.

11. Follow each other through the gates of hell.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Benavidez was a close friend of Leroy Wright and felt that he owed his life to him from an earlier incident in which Wright saved him. His attempt to repay the deed by rescuing Wright led to the insane heroics that almost cost him his life, even Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe.

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