This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns - We Are The Mighty
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This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Whether in the military or not, most people don’t drive tanks. But for nearly a decade, Drive A Tank has opened its doors to civilians wanting to live out their tank fantasies.



Related: 5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

“We’re trying to get normal people — civilians who wouldn’t normally have access to military equipment — a little bit of hands-on knowledge,” said Drive A Tank’s owner Tony Borglum in the video below.

It’s one of the only places in the world where you can drive a tank and shoot a machine gun under one roof that’s not owned or operated by the government, according to MarKessa Baedke-Peterson.

With packages ranging from $449 to $3,699, this military theme park will have you behind the wheel of a 15-ton armored vehicle through a course of woods and mud. The course ends at the car crushing area where visitors get to destroy perfectly intact Priuses (and other vehicles) by running them over.

But that’s not all. After the tank course, attendees get to shoot anti-material rifles like the Barrett 50 Cal. and belt fed machine guns like the M1919 Browning.

“Now that’s one badass motherf–ker,” Baedke said.

This video shows what a day is like for people who visit Drive A Tank:

The Daily, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy orders ships in the Pacific to stay at sea at least 14 days between port calls over coronavirus concerns

The US Navy has given ships operating in the Pacific new port-call guidance amid concerns over the coronavirus.

All US Navy vessels operating in the 7th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Asia-Pacific region, have been instructed to remain at sea for at least 14 days after stopping in any country in the Pacific before pulling into port elsewhere, US Pacific Fleet told Insider Thursday.


This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

The move is being taken out of “an abundance of caution,” a Pacific Fleet spokesman said.

The novel coronavirus, a severe respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year, has an incubation period of up to 14 days, during which time the infected may be asymptomatic.

Ships should monitor sailors between port calls, Pacific Fleet said.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

A US Navy spokesperson told CNN’s Ryan Browne, who first reported the news on Twitter, that while “there are no indications that any US Navy personnel have contracted Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” at this time, Pacific Fleet “is implementing additional mitigations to prevent Sailors from contracting COVID-19.”

The US military has already taken several drastic measures in response to the coronavirus, which has infected over 80,000 people in at least 40 countries and killed nearly 2,800 people, with the vast majority of cases and deaths in China. The majority of these measures have been taken in South Korea, home to more than 28,000 US troops and the first US service member to test positive for the virus.

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is headquartered in Japan, where about 50,000 US troops are stationed, has started screening everyone accessing the fleet’s warships and aircraft, Stars and Stripes reported on Monday.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How bureaucratic nonsense made the M16 less effective

When the Department of Defense first started buying AR-15s, they were clean, fast-firing, and accurate weapons popular with the airmen and Special Forces soldiers who carried them. But as the Army prepared to purchase them en masse, a hatred of the weapon by bureaucrats and red tape resulted in weapon changes that made the M16s less effective for thousands of troops in Vietnam.


This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

During a lull in the fighting in the Citadel, a Marine takes time out to clean his M16 rifle.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

(A note on measurements in this article: Most of the historical data in this article came from when the Army still used inches when discussing weapon calibers. The most common measurements are .22-caliber, roughly equal to 5.56mm ammo used in M4s today and .30-caliber, which is basically 7.62mm, like that used by some U.S. sniper rifles. There is also a reference to a proposed .27-caliber, which would have been 6.86mm).

The AR-15 was a derivative of the AR-10, an infantry rifle designed by Eugene Stoner for an Army competition. The AR-10 lost to what would become the M14. But a top Army officer was interested in smaller caliber weapons, like the AR-10, and he met with Stoner.

Gen. Willard G. Wyman was commanding the Continental Army Command when he brought an old Army report to Stoner. The report from the 1928 Caliber Board had recommended that the Army switch from heavy rifle rounds, like the popular .30-cal, to something like .27-caliber. The pre-World War II Army even experimented with .276-caliber rifles, but troops carried Browning Automatic Rifles and M1 Garands into battle in 1941, both chambered for .30-caliber.

These heavier rounds are great for marksmen and long-distance engagements because they stay stable in flight for long distances, but they have a lethality problem. Rounds that are .30-caliber and larger remain stable through flight, but they often also remain stable when hitting water, which was often used as a stand-in during testing for human flesh.

If a round stays stable through human flesh, it has a decent chance of passing through the target. This gives the target a wound similar to being stabbed with a rapier. But if the round tumbles when it hits human flesh, it will impart its energy into the surrounding flesh, making a stab-like wound in addition to bursting cells and tissue for many inches (or even feet) in all directions.

That’s where the extreme internal bleeding and tissue damage from some gunshot wounds comes from. Wyman wanted Stoner to make a new version of the AR-10 that would use .22-caliber ammunition and maximize these effects. Ammunition of this size would also weigh less, allowing troops to carry more.

Stoner and his team got to work and developed the AR-15, redesigning the weapon around a commercially available .22-caliber round filled with a propellant known as IMR 4475 produced by Du Pont and used by Remington. The resulting early AR-15s were tested by the Army and reviewed by Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. The weapons did great in testing, and both services purchased limited quantities for troops headed to Vietnam.

But, importantly, the bulk of the Army bureaucracy still opposed the weapon, including nearly all of the groups in charge of buying ammunition and rifles. They still loved the M14s developed by the Army itself.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Pvt. 1st Class Michael J. Mendoza (Piedmont, CA.) fires is M16 rifle into a suspected Viet Cong occupied area.

(U.S. Army Spec. 5 Robert C. Lafoon)

Approximately 104,000 rifles were shipped to Vietnam for use with the Air Force, airborne, and Special Forces units starting in 1963. They were so popular that infantrymen arriving in 1965 with other weapons began sending money home to get AR-15s for themselves. The Secretary of the Army forced the Army to take another look at it for worldwide deployment.

As the Army reviewed the weapon for general use once again, they demanded that the rifle be “militarized,” creating the M16. And the resulting rifle was held to performance metrics deliberately designed to benefit the M14 over the M16/AR-15.

These performance metrics demanded, among other things, that the rifle maintain the same level of high performance in all environments it may be used in, from Vietnam to the Arctic to the Sahara Desert; that it stay below certain chamber pressures; and that it maintain a consistent muzzle velocity of 3,250 fps.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

A soldier with an M-14 watches as supplies are airdropped into Vietnam.

(Department of Defense)

It was these last two requirements that made Stoner’s original design suddenly problematic. The weapon, as designed, achieved 3,150 fps. To hit 3,250 fps required an increase in the amount of propellant, but increasing the propellant made the weapon exceed its allowed chamber pressures. Exceeding the pressure created serious, including mechanical failure.

But Remington had told civilian customers that the IMR 4475-equipped ammo did fire at 3,250 fps as is. The Army tests proved that was a lie.

There was a way around the problem: Changing the propellant. IMR 4475 burned extremely quickly. While all rifles require an explosion to propel the round out of the chamber, not all powders create that explosion at the same rate. Other propellants burned less quickly, allowing them to release enough energy for 3,250 fps over a longer time, staying below the required pressure limits and preventing mechanical failure.

The other change, seemingly never considered by the M14 lovers, was simply lowering the required muzzle velocity. After all, troops in Vietnam loved their 3,150-fps-capable AR-15s.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

A first lieutenant stands with his M-16 in Vietnam.

(U.S. Army)

Instead, the Army stuck to the 3,250 fps requirement, and Remington and Du Pont pulled IMR 4475 from production. The Army turned to two slower-burning powders to make the weapon work, but that created a new issue. The powders created a lot more problems.

The new powders increased the cyclic rate of the weapon from 750 rounds per minute to about 1,000 while also increasing the span of time during each cycle where powder was burning. So, unlike with IMR 4475, the weapon’s gas port would open while the powder was still burning, allowing dirty, still-burning powder to enter the weapon’s gas tube.

This change, combined with an increase in the number of barrel twists from 12 to 14 and the addition of mechanical bolt closure devices, angered the Air Force. But the Army was in charge of the program by that point, and all new M16s would be manufactured to Army specifications and would use ball powder ammunition.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Pvt. 1st Class John Henson cleans his XM16E1 rifle while on an operation 30 miles west of Kontum, Vietnam.

(U.S. Army)

Rifle jams and failures skyrocketed, tripling in some tests. And rumors that M16s didn’t need to be cleaned, based on AR-15s firing cleaner propellants, created a catastrophe for infantrymen whose rifles jammed under fire, sometimes resulting in their deaths.

Many of these problems have been mitigated in the decades since, with new powders and internal components that reduced fouling and restored the balance between chamber pressure, muzzle velocity, and ballistics. Most importantly, troops were trained on how to properly maintain the rifle and were given the tools necessary to do so.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump wants to free an American held in Turkey

President Donald Trump appealed to Turkey for the release of the American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who is being held on accusations that he supported a failed military coup in 2016.

Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for 25 years, serving as leader of a Christian church in the town of Izmir, about 360 miles southwest of the capital Ankara.


He has remained in custody for the last 18 months, facing charges that he helped support Turkish soldiers who tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Brunson has denied any wrongdoing.

“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump said in a Twitter post on April 17, 2018.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is,” the US president said. “Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”

Trump’s declaration that “I am more a spy” than Brunson is hits at the crux of Turkey’s argument about Brunson and the vast swath of the Turkish population arrested and accused of subverting Erdogan’s government.

Some people did a double-take on Trump calling himself a spy.

In an apparent gesture to coax Turkey into freeing Brunson, the US dropped charges against members of Erdogan’s security detail who were accused of brawling with protesters during the Turkish president’s visit to the US in 2017.

By all accounts, Turkey was unmoved.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia releases details of upcoming war games

On Sept. 7, 2018, two US F-22 Raptor fighter jets intercepted two Russian nuclear-capable Tu-95MC strategic bombers flying over the Arctic Ocean, escorting them for part of their journey over the waters of the Arctic and the Bering and Okhotsk seas.

The US planes tracked the Russian bombers until they left the area, flying west over the Aleutian Islands.

A defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the bombers may have been practicing for a cruise-missile strike on US missile-defense sites and radars in Alaska — which may be a feature of the Russia’s upcoming massive Vostok-18 exercise that Russian officials have said will be the largest such drill since the Cold War.


Russian troops have already undergone “snap inspections” in preparation for the exercise, the active portion of which will take place between Sept. 11 to Sept. 17, 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, according to Russian state-media outlet Tass.

Exercises will take place at five ground testing areas and four aerial testing areas over the Sea of Japan and the Bering and Okhotsk seas.

“Aircraft have been flying maximum range sorties with refueling in flight and practicing landings at tactical airfields. Naval ships have been performing combat maneuvering and firing practices,” Shoigu said, according to Tass.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Russian armored vehicles participating in Zapad-2017 exercises.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Shoigu said in late August 2018 that about 300,000 Russian personnel and 1,000 aircraft, including drones, would take part, adding that “up to 80 combat and logistics ships and up to 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles” will be involved.

Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s general staff, said Sept. 6, 2018, that 21 formations had been mobilized in 10 regions for the exercise, the main purpose of which, he said, “is to check the level of training that can be assessed only in an exercise of proper scale.”

“This exercise, to be held on the bilateral basis, will be the strictest test of combat skills and the military districts’ readiness for ground, air and naval operations,” he added.

“Involved in the exercise will be forces from the Eastern and Central federal districts, the Northern Fleet, and Airborne Forces, as well as long-range, military transport and tactical aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Force,” Gerasimov said, according to Tass.

Gerasimov also said that Chinese and Mongolian personnel will take part “side by side” with Russian forces.

Shoigu said in September 2018 that up to 3,500 Chinese army personnel would be involved “in the main scenario at the Tsugol proving ground” in Russia’s Eastern Military District.

China’s involvement has elicited surprise, given that Vostok, or East, has long been seen as Moscow’s preparation for a potential conflict with Beijing. China and Russia have done joint drills before, but this appears to be the first time Beijing has taken part in the Vostok exercise.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

China “is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Alexander Gabuev, a China expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times in August 2018.

The exercise is also expected to include simulated nuclear-weapons attacks, US officials told The Free Beacon. A Pentagon official said the US would watch the war games closely, calling them “strategic messaging” by both China and Russia.

Mongolia is also participating for the first time, and contingents from there and China are “completing coordination and adjustment at the Tsugol proving ground,” Gerasimov said, referring to an area near the eastern intersection of the three countries’ borders — where Gabuev suggested they might be restricted so Russian troops elsewhere could train for a potential clash with China.

NATO has also criticized the exercise, with a spokesman for the alliance saying it “fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

Russia’s deputy defense minister, Col-Gen. Alexander Fomin said in September 2018 that the upcoming drills “lacked the slightest traces” of “anti-NATO bias or aggressiveness.”

Fomin also said Russian military personnel had been briefed on security and safety measures in accordance with Moscow’s agreements with neighboring countries, including the US.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy improvised gas mask used by World War I troops

Time and again, the oft-repeated military adage is proven right: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. This old saying might be the military’s version of necessity being the mother of invention. Except in the military, necessity could mean the difference between life and death. This was certainly true of U.S. doughboys on the battlefields of World War I, where a single battle could cost up to 10,000 American lives or more.

Americans were used to overcoming long odds in combat. Our country was founded on long odds. But in the Great War, U.S. troops had to contend with a weapon from which they couldn’t recover: poison gas.


This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Many different gas masks were used on the Western Front, but one was more improvised than others.

Throughout American involvement in the First World War, poison gas attacks killed and maimed some 2,000 American troops and countless more allies who had been fighting for years before the doughboys arrived. As a result, all the Allied and Central Powers developed anti-gas countermeasures to try and give their troops a fighting chance in a chemical environment. But gas was introduced as a weapon very early in the fighting, long before the belligerents knew they’d need protection.

But they did need protection. Gas on the battlefield was first administered by releasing the gas from canisters while downwind – a method that could go awry at anytime, causing the wind to shift toward friendly forces. Later on, it would be used in artillery shells that would keep the gas in the enemy’s trench – at least, until the friendly troops advanced to take that trench.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

German soldiers ignite chlorine gas canisters during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium on April 22, 1915.

But early gases weren’t as terrifying as chemical weapons developed in the course of the war. The first uses of gas attacks involved tear gas and chlorine gas. While tear gas is irritating, it’s relatively harmless. Even the first uses of tear gas on the Eastern Front saw the chemical freeze rather than deploy when fired. Chlorine gas, on the other hand, could be incredibly fatal but was not effective as an instrument of death. Chlorine gas had a telltale smell and green color. Troops knew instantly that the gas had been deployed.

To safeguard against it, allied troops used rags or towels covered in urine to protect their lungs from the gas. The thought was that the ammonia in urea was somehow neutralizing the chlorine to keep it from killing them. That wasn’t it at all. Chlorine just dissolves in water, so no chlorine would ever pass through the wet pieces of cloth on their face. They could have used coffee, and the trick would have still worked.

Water (or urine) wasn’t effective against what was to come.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Troops burned by mustard gas in the First World War.

More than half a million men were injured or killed by poison gas during World War I. The terrifying, disfiguring effects of gases like colorless phosgene gas that caused lungs to fill with fluid, drowning men in their beds over a period of days. Then there was mustard gas, a blistering agent that could soak into their uniforms, covering their entire bodies with painful, burning blisters.

Small wonder it was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why pilots love and hate ‘B-tchin’ Betty’

Believe it or not, movies usually get the alarms and alerts in fighter jets wrong. (I know, this is shocking information coming from a website that once specialized in identifying mistakes in movies like Basic, The Hunt for Red October, and The Marine.) The fact is, the worst alarms are rarely loud chimes or claxons. Setting off a bunch of horns in the cockpit while a pilot is already stressed would create more problems than it solved.


This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

(U.S. Air Force)

Instead, the worst alarms are usually announced by a calm voice. And pilots often hate that voice.

So here, in a nutshell, is what’s going on. As engineers started making fourth-generation jet fighters, it became apparent that they needed too many alarms to do it all with lights and sounds. No, it would be much faster and more precise to have a human voice say the exact thing that the pilot needs to know.

And also, experiments had shown that pilots losing consciousness could respond to oral instructions for a longer period than they could understand other auditory or visual alarms.

But the last thing a pilot needs in the emotional roller coaster of a dog fight over Eastern Europe or an engine failure over the ocean is someone emotionally screaming at them through their controls. So jet manufacturers hired voice actors to do careful and calm voice recordings. The first was an actor named Kim Crow.

America opted for a female voice actor because they thought pilots would react much faster to a female voice because girlfriends exist. That’s not a joke, that’s how Kim Crow described it herself in this interview.

It was Crow’s job to warn pilots that they were about to crash into the ground, that a missile is in the air and hunting them, or that radar on the ground has a lock on them.

So, pilots should love that little voice that calmly alerts them to an emergency, right?

Well, no. And for a few good reasons once you give it a good thought. First of all, these alarms usually go off when things are going very badly. No matter how calm the voice is, you’re going to have an emotional reaction to a voice you only hear when there’s a risk you’re about to die, crash, or accidentally destroy a multi-million dollar aircraft.

But, worse, pilots can’t always spare a hand to turn off the alarm when things are going wrong. Obviously, if you’re dodging Iraqi missiles in Desert Storm and get too close to the deck, you’re going to be too busy escaping the missiles and gaining altitude to toggle off an alarm. But that easily means that some of the most stressful three minutes of your life has a soundtrack, and it’s a woman saying, “Missile alert,” over and over even though you already know there’s a missile.

Rick and Morty – Horse Surgery

www.youtube.com

And so pilots started giving the voices in their planes nicknames, usually derogatory ones. America’s became known as “Bitchin’ Betty.” Britain is known for calling theirs “Nagging Nora.” And Australia reportedly uses “Hank the Yank” because their country apparently thought pilots could quite easily respond to a male voice.

Or maybe Hank is a female nickname in Australia. We’ve never been fighter pilots in Australia.

But while military pilots have mixed feelings toward the voices in their planes, they seem to work. And many of the same tactics are used in civilian planes and helicopters for the same role and for the same reasons.

But just imagine if Siri, Alexa or Cortana only spoke to you when everything was going horribly wrong and wouldn’t shut up during your crises. Yup, you wouldn’t like them much either.

Articles

She loves her rifle…and this killer playlist

Editor’s note: Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army. This list originally appeared on her blog.


This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns
The author (right) rockin’ her rifle while tooling around Iraq back in the day.

When I was speaking at a university a few years ago, a student who DJ’d at the local college radio station and had read my book asked me to come on as a guest. He had me put together a list of music I listened to in Iraq, and then interviewed me between songs. It was a really cool experience for me to revisit my deployment through music.

This isn’t limited to my time in Iraq, but is evocative of both my deployment and homecoming. Here it is:

1. Live, “Mental Jewelry”

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

I started listening to Live in high school and have fond memories of seeing them play. For some reason, the lyrics came into my mind often in Iraq, always making me feel a little melancholy.

2. Bad Religion, “The Process of Belief”

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

This album came out while I was at DLI, and I listened to it throughout the summer of 2002 while I was at AIT in Texas. Once we got to Iraq, this song in particular made me ache.

3. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion, Social Distortion

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

This is one of my favorite albums. Went to see them play in Dallas the summer of 2002 – and spent the whole time feeling a little alienated from civilians. As for this particular song, I left my hometown when I was 15, and every time I’ve gone back have felt that weird sensation of my old neighborhood not being the same. That got even stronger after I joined the Army. I like how this song captures a particular feeling of frustration.

4. “So What,” Ministry, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

I was angry as a teenager, and spent a lot of time angry while I was in the Army, too. This is a great song to be really pissed off to. (Random aside: I saw the movie this song has samples from on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once, which was awesome. It’s totally absurd, you should check it out: The Violent Years.)

5. “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

So there isn’t a lot of DK on Spotify that I could find. The song I wanted to put was “Life Sentence” (the lyrics “you don’t do what you want to but you do the same thing every day” could describe half my time in the Army!), but this is a good one, too. Fits in with the theme of anger.

6. “Jaded,” Operation Ivy,” Operation Ivy

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

As angry as I got, I never gave up those hopeful kernels, and still clung to that conviction that I could make the world a better place. “Sound System” is another good one off that album, about how music can bring you back up when you feel shitty.

7. “Cactus,” Pixies, Surfer Rosa

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

I have no idea why this particular Pixies song is the one that I got totally fixated on in Iraq. The mention of the desert? Who knows.

8. “Then She Did,” Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

When I was younger and, um, enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances, the song “Three Days” was what I loved the most – it took me on this whole mental odyssey. But in Iraq I fell in love with this one, a more reserved and introspective one.

9. “In the Arms of Sleep,” The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

I would listen to this one over and over and over in Iraq, longing to … be there, have those feelings.

10. “I Know, Huh?,” The Vandals, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

This reminds me of the giddy, heady, happy days of being just home from Iraq, before the bad parts of reintegration kicked in. I have memories of driving around with Zoe singing along with this, being goofy and ridiculous.

11. “8 Mile,” Eminem, 8 Mile

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

When things started to get really shitty, I would listen to this song (oh, so cheesy! I know!) and tell myself I could push on for just a little longer and couldn’t give up.

Listen to the playlist:

Articles

SOCOM and Marine Corps move closer to Ma Deuce replacement

There’s a lot going on behind closed doors in the ground services as planners see an opportunity to fundamentally change the mix of infantry weapons given bigger defense budgets and a command more receptive to change.


WATM earlier reported on moves in the Army to quickly outfit soldiers with an interim battle rifle capability with available 7.62 NATO chambered rifles to replace some standard-issue 5.56 M4s in the infantry squad and platoon. It now seems the service is set to issue an Urgent Needs requirement for over 6,000 battle rifles for soldiers in the fight now.

But in a move that analysts say could fundamentally transform the lethality of small units on the front lines, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps have teamed up to find ways to replace some of their M2 .50 caliber machine guns and M240 machine guns with a new one chambered in an innovative round developed primarily for long-range precision shooters in the civilian market.

WATM reported in March that the services were taking a hard look at the Lightweight Medium Machine Gun developed by General Dynamics that fires the .338 Norma Magnum round — a relatively new cartridge that’s seen few military applications until now. According to sources in close touch with military planners, the .338 NM machine gun is 3 pounds lighter than the M240B and has double the range and lethality of the 7.62 round.

On May 11, SOCOM and the Marine Corps issued a so-called “Sources Sought” message to industry asking for a LWMMG that weighs less than 24 pounds, with a rate of fire between 500-600 rounds and which includes a suppressed and un-suppressed quick-change barrel.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns
This slide from a recent industry briefing shows the LWMMG and its .338 NM round potentially reach targets beyond the .50 cal M2 range. Stats show an incredible 5x energy at 1,000 meters compared to the NATO 7.62 round. (Photo from General Dynamics)

The LWMMG should have the capability to accurately engage point targets out to 2,000 meters, SOCOM and the Marine Corps says.

The request is in answer to worries by military planners that the enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other potential battlefields have widely-available small arms capabilities that can target U.S. troops at ranges Americans can’t reach with most weapons. Additionally, the M2 is extremely heavy and cannot be wielded by a single operator like the LWMMG can.

Documents show the 75th Ranger Regiment and Marine special operations units have successfully evaluated four LWMMGs and 16,000 rounds of .338 NM ammunition and want more.

The Sources Sought notice also includes a request for .338 NM ammunition with a polymer case rather than a brass or steel one — an effort to cut down on the overall weight of the system and allow more rounds per shooter. General Dynamics is well on its way to fielding a polymer-cased .338 round (less than 13 pounds for a 500-round box), and the Marine Corps is moving forward with outfitting its forces with polymer-cased .50 caliber rounds.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns
The technology to develop lightweight rounds that can handle the heat and pressure of automatic fire is progressing rapidly. (Photo from General Dynamics)

“In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century,” said one military small arms expert on the industry website SoldierSystems.net. “It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This ‘exascale’ computer could be the most powerful processor in the world

Intel said on March 18, 2019, that it would build the US’s most powerful supercomputer, so fast that it could process 1 quintillion — 1 billion times 1 billion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 — calculations per second.

To put that in perspective: If every person on Earth did one calculation (say, a math problem involving algebra) per second, it would take everyone over four years to do all the calculations Aurora could do in one second.


Intel and the US Department of Energy said Aurora would be the US’s first exascale supercomputer, with a performance of 1 exaflop, when it’s completed in 2021.

That kind of number-crunching brawn, the computer’s creators hope, will enable great leaps in everything from cancer research to renewable-energy development.

Aurora, set to be developed by Intel and its subcontractor Cray at the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, would far surpass the abilities of supercomputers today. It’s likely to be the most powerful supercomputer in not just the US but the world, though Rick Stevens, an associate laboratory director at Argonne, said that other countries might also be working on exascale supercomputers.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Rajeeb Hazra, a corporate vice president and general manager at Intel.

(Intel)

The effort marks a “transformational” moment in the evolution of high-performance computing, Rajeeb Hazra, an Intel corporate vice president and general manager of its enterprise and government group, told Business Insider.

What Aurora could do

A computer that powerful is no small thing. Though Intel didn’t unveil the technical details of the system, supercomputers typically cover thousands of square feet and have thousands of nodes.

When it’s finished, this supercomputer should be able to do space simulations, drug discovery, and more. The government said it planned to use it to develop applications in science, energy, and defense. Aurora could also be used by universities and national labs.

For example, it could be used to safely simulate and test weapons — without actually setting them off or endangering people — or design better batteries, wind-power systems, or nuclear reactors. It could also be used to better understand earthquake hazards and model the risks of climate change.

U.S. Department of Energy and Intel to Deliver First Exascale Supercomputer

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It could even be used for research on cancer, cardiac issues, traumatic brain injuries, and suicide prevention, especially among veterans. The supercomputer is designed to apply large-scale data analytics and machine learning to understand the risk factors for these kinds of physical and mental health problems to help prevent them.

Intel, which says it helps power over 460 of the top 500 supercomputers, has worked with the Department of Energy for about two decades. It said Aurora would be five times as fast as the most powerful supercomputer, IBM’s Summit.

The Department of Energy’s contract with Intel and Cray is worth over 0 million to build Aurora, which Secretary of Energy Rick Perry authorized in 2017. The department also plans to build additional exascale supercomputers to start working between 2021 and 2023.

“The biggest challenge is also probably the most exciting part: to envision and create technologies that have never been created before,” Hazra said. “Because this machine requires a level of capability we haven’t seen before, the biggest risk is we’re inventing something new — but to us, that’s also the most exciting part.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian patent literally looks like flying AK-47

Kalashnikov’s AK-47 represents a timeless design and an instantly recognizable icon of warfare, but one thing it cannot do is fly.

But Russian arms maker Almaz-Antey filed a patent in February 2018 on what looks like a literal flying AK-47 drone.

Images filed with the patent show a minimalist drone formed around a Kalashnikov-style rifle, and were first pointed out by aviation writer Steven Trimble on Twitter.


The aircraft has no apparent propulsion, but has two large bulbs that may support propellers. It looks to have large control surfaces built into rear vertical stabilizers and towards the gun’s barrel at the front of the aircraft.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

(Almaz-Antey)

The gun appears a completely standard Kalashnikov rifle, with a standard banana-shaped magazine that extends conspicuously from the bottom of the airframe. The drawings of the drone show absolutely no effort made towards making the gun streamlined or more aerodynamic.

Russia has unveiled a number of unusual drones in recent years, including an underwater drone meant to fight off undersea divers. The underwater drone is armed with an underwater version of a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Additionally Russia has tested unmanned aerial combat vehicles and even “suicide drones.”

But the flying AK-47 drone patent raises more questions than it answers. With forward facing propellers, the drone will likely have to maintain some velocity throughout its flight. Other drones with helicopter-like rotors can fly in place.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

This small drone plane has to aim at you to shoot you.

(Almaz-Antey)

Also, an assault rifle basically only works against people or unarmored targets. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Russia would need small flying aircraft to try to shoot people in what would essentially be a flying drive by. To operate such a drone against small targets, the aircraft would have to handle the blowback from shots fired and have a way to find, track and fire at moving targets. And unless the drone has some hidden capacity to change magazines in flight, each drone gun likely wouldn’t hold more than 30 rounds.

Defense contractors routinely file patents for a variety of innovations and don’t always follow through with them, so it’s unclear if we’ll ever see this strange bird fly.

But if you were thinking of building for commercial purposes a small drone to fly a Kalashnikov around and not do much else, then don’t. There’s a patent on that.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Waffle House Index’ tells FEMA how to worry about storms

No one endures a national state of emergency like the Waffle House. For those who don’t live near the 2,000-plus locations spread out across 25 states, a Waffle House is a restaurant that harnesses the enduring image of the all-night truck stop greasy spoon. The most outstanding thing about the food at a Waffle House is that it’s always available 24-7, rain or hurricane.

But when your local Waffle House is suddenly not open, you know it’s time to head for the hills.


Waffle Houses have a loyal following in the areas where they operate, and it’s not just truckers and the late night, post-drinking crowd. A good slice of Americans would tell you that Waffle House produces the kind of food they love.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns
And heroes. Waffle House produces goddamn heroes.

The restaurant chain is so reliable during disasters that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, actually closely monitors the activities of local Waffle House restaurants to prepare for potential economic damage and make risk-management decisions. They call it the “Waffle House Index,” and it’s not just a measure of the danger of a storm, it’s a barometer for economic recovery.

The Waffle House Index has three levels of severity. Green means a Waffle House is open and serving a full menu, yellow means the menu is limited to just a few options, and red indicates the Waffle House was forced to close, its crew has skipped town, and you probably should, too.

The reason is that Waffle House operates a huge number of stores in the American South and Southeast. Their properties and supply chain are always vulnerable to extreme weather conditions faced on the U.S. coasts. In the event of an emergency, the chain is able to quickly inform employees and move supplies to secure warehouses. Once the crisis has passed, the Waffle House is usually the first business open in the aftermath.

It’s not only in the public’s (and FEMA’s) best interest to monitor dangerous storms. For Waffle House, who maintains a storm watch center, it keeps the company’s product and supply chain intact and ready to re-open for business. Food, after all, is not a product that stands the test of time. The company has generators, supplies, and staff ready to go as soon as the all clear is given.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, it wasn’t just fry cooks and waitresses that flocked back to North Carolina after the storm. Waffle House sent in construction teams and IT personnel, all lead by the company’s CEO. The supply staging strategy used by Waffle House is the same method used by the U.S. Military and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in case of a national crisis or theater-level operation.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Waffle House Restaurant torn apart by Hurricane Katrina on the Biloxi, Mississippi, coast.

(Library of Congress)

While the Waffle House Index is a decent risk indicator, it’s not always 100-percent perfect. Waffle Houses closed in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina, Matthew, and Harvey. The Waffle House in Joplin, Mo. remained open during the devastating tornado that hit the town in 2011. The Waffle House survived, but much of the rest of the town did not.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Service members face off in a battle of strength

Members of the U.S. military community competed against one another Sept. 29, 2019 in another installment of Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

The event was held to determine who were some of the strongest men and women on Okinawa.

“Today went great,” explained Taryn Miller, an adult sports specialist for Marine Corps Community Services. “The weather was awesome. The competitors had a lot of energy. There was a lot of camaraderie along with a competitive edge among everybody.”

Okinawa residents and service members traveled from all across the island to participate in this event.


The competitors were divided into five different weight classes. Two female weight classes and three male weight classes.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, lifts an atlas stone during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The first event was the yoke carry, which consisted of a competitor carrying a set weight 50 yards in a race against time. The second was a farmer’s carry 100 yards followed by 10 log cleans and presses for time. The third event was the atlas stone lift, which involved the competitors lifting three different stones and placing them on a platform for time.

Competitors with the highest combined score in their weight class at the end of the competition were declared the winners.

The champion from the female weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kathryn Quandt, a future operations officer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion.

The champion from the male weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion.

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, executes a log clean and press during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The champion from the male 150-to-200 pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Kermeen, a faculty advisor with the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Hansen, and the champion from the male over-200-pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III MEF Support Battalion.

The island-wide Okinawa’s Strongest competition will feature winners from both the Battle of the North and South and will take place in November 2019 on Camp Foster.

“Today’s event had a lot of similar movements that you will see in the event coming up in November 2019 which will have eight different stations as opposed to the three that we had here today,” said Miller. “This was a great way for competitors to get a feel for what it’s going to be like at the big one.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.