GEAR & TECH

This is why the F-117 Nighthawk was so groundbreaking

When you think of goblins, the mythical creatures portrayed in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films might come to mind. Traditionally, the goblin has been a mischievous, sneaky monster. So, in one sense, it's fitting that this cunning creature found its way into the nickname of the first operational stealth aircraft.

The F-117 Nighthawk was nicknamed the "Wobblin' Goblin," mostly due to its handling characteristics — after all, it didn't look like a conventional plane and it required computer assistance to remain in controlled flight. It might not sound ideal, but those were some of the realities of flying the first operational stealth fighter. Well, more accurately, it was a light bomber that usually carried two GBU-10 laser-guided bombs or four GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.

While most planes using laser-guided bombs on high-value targets often faced greater risk, the F-117 was perfectly suited for the task.

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This is Russia's improved airborne infantry fighting vehicle

Armored vehicles, like cars, get a makeover from time to time. Improved versions emerge, often as operational experiences and new technologies are assessed. One big proponent of this iterative process is Russia, which pays special attention to its infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

For instance, let's look at the BMD series of airborne infantry fighting vehicles. These vehicles are intended to back up paratroopers with some heavy firepower. The original BMD, the BMD-1, was a hybrid between a light tank and an armored personnel carrier. And, just as they did with as the the BMP, the Russians made wholesale improvements to the BMD with each new iteration.

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History

How the Navy tried to prevent accidents 60 years ago

For a long time, the Navy has been trying to reduce the frequency of accidents — and it's easy to see why. The recent collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) left 17 sailors dead, many others hurt, and both destroyers out of action for months. Other safety mishaps have been less costly, but each accident takes time and effort to clean up — ultimately taking time and effort away from other, more important things, like fighting the enemy.

For years, the Navy put forth the Friday Funnies, which used humor (most of the time) to push sailors to be careful, often using the sailors involved in accidents and mishaps as the butt of the joke pour encourager les autres — to help others learn from their mistakes. If you didn't want to be made fun of in the bulletin, well, you knew what not to do.

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History

The Army sent soldiers to Vietnam to be 'combat artists'

For decades, photography has been the primary means of recording war. The medium began its rise to prominence during the American Civil War, thanks to Mathew Brady, a pioneer of photography, and his mobile darkroom. By World War I, photography had completely taken over as the de facto means of documenting war. Today, some form of photography, either still or motion, is still used to capture the iconic moments of a conflict.

But believe it or not, painting has hung on.

During the Vietnam War, the United States Army's Center for Military History ran a unique program, selecting soldiers for temporary duty in the Vietnam Combat Artists Program. One such soldier was James R. Pollock, who served on Combat Artist Team IV from August 15, 1967, to December 31, 1967.

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GEAR & TECH

This is the Army's precision 'sniper rifle' howitzer

Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.

With the right ammo, there's a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.

The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that's been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it's been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.

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What would really happen after Maverick's dogfight in 'Top Gun'

If you've seen Top Gun, then you know how it ends — with a huge dogfight. Enemy MiGs shoot down one F-14 Tomcat, but at the expense of four airframes. The hero of the engagement, Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, is responsible for shooting down three of those MiGs.

At the end of the film, Maverick gets his choice of duty stations and returns to Top Gun as an instructor where he's reunited with the lovely Charlie. Happily ever after, right? This is all well and good in Hollywood's version of the military… but what would have really happened after that dogfight?

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History

A cut-off Japanese garrison wiped out this endangered bird

The tragic defeat of the brave defenders at Wake Island following a gallant stand in the weeks after Pearl Harbor lives on in Marine Corps lore. The legacy includes VMFA-211, the "Wake Island Avengers," who currently operate the F-35B Lightning II. It also includes a lesson in how the most innocent can pay the heavy price of war. In this case, we're talking about a bird.

Wake Island was one of many Japanese-held posts that were passed over in the Allies' island-hopping campaign. The Japanese garrison there was cut off, stuck in the middle of the Pacific and facing occasional strikes by Navy and Army Air Force assets. With no ability to resupply, the Japanese garrisoned there had to survive somehow.

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GEAR & TECH

Here is how a new generation of computers will help America dominate

One of the reasons why American weapons systems have been so dominant is computer power. Whether it's helping the M1 Abrams keep its gun on target or helping secure communications, computers give American troops an edge. Now, the Pentagon wants to bring the next generation of computers, quantum computers, into the fight.

You're probably asking yourself, "what, exactly, is quantum computing and how would it give our troops an edge? Well, here's a quick rundown.

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History

The evolution of the global positioning system might surprise you

The Global Positioning System is taken for granted these days. The military uses it for just about everything from guiding bombs to setting up rendezvous for resupplying. In the civilian world, systems powered by GPS can be found in just about every new phone or car. The system came online fully in 1995, but not before getting a brief workout during Desert Storm.

The idea for such a system stems back to 1973, when the United States was wrapping up in Vietnam and Israel was fighting for its very survival in the Yom Kippur War. The system was a fusion of technologies pushed by the various armed services — some of which dated back to before 1961's first manned spaceflight.

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