MIGHTY CULTURE

Yes, you can aim at enemy troops with the .50-cal.

It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).


Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)

But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?

That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.

And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?

Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)

Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…

…Except, hear that? That’s the sound of no CID agents coming to arrest these overly bold war criminals. Probably because shooting an enemy combatant with a .50-cal. is not, at all, illegal.

The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.

If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.

Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.

(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)

Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.

Germany never lodged a formal case against the shotgun, but there are a number of weapons that are, officially, illegal under rules against unnecessary suffering. Weapons that use plastic fragments or pellets to wound and kill the enemy, many types of landmines, some types of torpedoes, etc., have all either been banned or partially banned. But there’s no real case against the .50-cal.

So, how did this misinformation campaign get started? It’s not completely clear, but there is a rumor it began in Vietnam.

American logistics at the time were limited, especially for troops deep in the jungle. As the story goes, troops far forward were using their .50-cal. rounds to shoot at any and everything in the jungle that sounded threatening. Commanders prevented ammo shortages by ordering their men to use the .50-cal. ammo only to engage light vehicles.

This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.

But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

It’s likely that whoever US troops fight in the next war, these enemies will be armed with drones. That’s why Army researchers have invented a smart and cost-effective way to bring them down.

The US Army has invented a new grenade in the 40 mm configuration that is packed with a net and specifically designed to take out enemy drones.


The weapon, which was developed by Army engineers at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in New Jersey, can be launched from the standard grenade launchers regularly used by the US military and law enforcement.

Here’s how it works, according to a patent…

Scalable Effects Net Warhead.

(US Army/Patent via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

The projectile contains a net with weights, the patent detailed. As the round nears the target, a signal from a control board releases the net stored inside, according to the recent patent.

The weapon can theoretically be used to counter both single and swarming drones.

Scalable Effects Net Warhead.

(US Army/Patent via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

Terrorist groups and insurgents in the Middle East have used commercial quadcopters for reconnaissance, as well as the dropping of improvised munitions.

The Army’s simple yet effective invention has purportedly outperformed existing net-centric counter-drone techniques, such as drone-operated drag nets, where a pilot must outmaneuver an enemy aerial drone. That tactic would likely be ineffective against a swarm of drones, which a sophisticated adversary like Russia would be capable of wielding.

Furthermore, the new net-packed grenade is a lot cheaper than surface-to-air weapons, such as surface to air missiles, to take out an adversary’s drones. A US ally once used a million Patriot missile to shoot down a quadcopter drone that probably cost no more than 0, US Army Gen. David Perkins last year, calling attention to the need for affordable counter-drone capabilities.

Ground units equipped with the M320 grenade launchers could carry dozens of these grenades to eliminate enemy drones from hundreds of yards away, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer ,explained, adding that units equipped with the Mk-19 launchers could down enemy drones from even farther away.

The Army wants to eventually expand this concept to disable boats and trucks and much more.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Richard Overton, oldest WW2 veteran, dies at 112

On Thursday, Dec. 27, U.S. Army veteran Richard Overton died after being hospitalized with pneumonia.

He was the oldest living World War II veteran and considered the oldest man in the United States.

During World War II, Overton volunteered for the U.S. Army, already in his 30s at the time. He served in the Pacific with the 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit.

In 2013, Overton was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery:

“He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said. ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God.”‘

Overton once said that the secret to life is Scotch and cigars.

He is remembered by many for his optimism and ability to live for the simple things in life.

Lists

5 reasons bourbon is the most American drink of all time

Bourbon is a liquor that has a place in your hand all-year round. Whether it’s sipping a mint julep on a hot summer’s day or spiking the egg nog (like George Washington might) to make Christmas with the family that much more fun (or bearable), there is just never a bad time for a bourbon beverage.


Despite being named for a house of French kings, there are myriad reasons why we should take a moment to take stock (literally and figuratively) of America’s distinctive, home-grown, and distilled liquor.

And if you want to get technical, those French Bourbon kings helped George Washington and the Continental Army create America, so show some respect.

Bourbon’s all-American status goes well beyond the fact that it’s an American-born corn-fed whiskey created by a Baptist minister in Kentucky — although I can’t think of a more American birth for anything.

Unless you can figure out how to get cheese, baseball, and apple pie in there, too.

A 1964 act of Congress made bourbon the official spirit of the United States of America, or as they put it, “America’s Native Spirit.” Which says a lot, both about America and the U.S. Congress… and probably the people who voted for them.

It should be noted that many, many great bourbons are Kentucky-based but it isn’t necessary for a bourbon to be made in Kentucky for it to be considered a bourbon. This is not champagne we’re talking about. The necessary qualifications for a whiskey to be a bourbon are as follows:

  • It’s made with 51 percent corn.
  • It must be aged in a new white oak barrel, with the inside charred before adding liquor.
  • It can’t have any color or flavor additives
  • Bourbon must be between 80 and 160 proof (40-80 percent alcohol)
There are real reasons why bourbon is a product that could only have been American-made. So, put that vodka-soda down, comrade, and get a bottle of Evan Williams for the coming July 4th holiday. Your friends and family will thank you.

Now if you want to drink bourbon like a sailor, try the classic Whiskey Smash!

American Oak repels British cannonballs while making an excellent liquor flavor. Amerigasm.

1. Those oak barrels are only found in North America.

Bourbon must be aged in a new American White Oak barrel every time. These barrels are never reused by bourbon makers. I think they’re shipped off to Scotland so they can age scotch whisky in them with peat moss and haggis or whatever. No, America’s bourbon only uses them once — by law (no joke) — and they’re mostly found only in America.

When the U.S. Navy needs to patch up Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution, they use white oak from a grove specifically for the ship, called “Constitution Grove,” at a Naval timber reserve at Naval Weapons Support Center in Crane, Indiana.

Both of them always make faces that imply 120 gallons was not enough.

2. Bourbon fueled the exploration of the United States.

Lewis and Clark didn’t take water with them on the expedition to map the Louisiana Purchase, but you can be damn sure they remembered to bring 120 gallons of bourbon to fuel their two-year trek to the Pacific Ocean.

America runs in your veins, whether you like it or not.

3. American icons f*cking love bourbon.

What did Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Harry Truman, Walt Whitman, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Jack London, Mark Twain, Anthony Bourdain, and John Wayne have in common? No, they weren’t all taken over by the reptile aliens and replaced: They loved American bourbon.

When Grant’s critics appealed to Lincoln to try and have him fired for his drinking, Lincoln offered to send Grant’s preferred brand to all his other generals — and you can still buy Grant’s favorite bourbon today. President Truman began every day of his life, even as President, with a glass of the hard stuff.

Even Winston Churchill loved American bourbon, which can be partly explained by the fact that the British bulldog’s mother was American born.

Fear of the President of the United States leading an Army into your hometown: keeping people from being tarred and feathered since 1794… Probably.

4. The young U.S. Army ran on booze, not its stomach.

An army still needs to eat, but how do you pay for the food that fuels that army — or, specifically, the U.S. Army? It was excising taxes on distilled spirits for the fledgling United States that bought the guns and grub that defeated the British and put down rebellions (including the rebellion against the taxes) in the country’s early years. Rum and whiskey can also take some claim for this, but it was bourbon that kept the country together in the war to come.

The face you make when you used to be a bartender but now you’re President during the Civil War.

5. It was the glue that saved the Union.

When the border state of Kentucky remained in the Union, it allowed Abraham Lincoln to use taxes on distilled spirits to pay for much of the Union war effort. The Confederacy prohibited bourbon production because it wanted to use the corn to feed troops and the copper stills to make cannon.

Bad call.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force Special Operations is preparing for a major power war

Attacking enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, using ground-based laser designators to “paint” targets for aircraft, and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-casualty close-in combat are all US Air Force Special Operations Force skills tested and refined during the last decade and a half of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Drawing upon these Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), Air Force Special Operations Command is accelerating a strategic shift from its recent counterinsurgency focus to preparing for “high-end” combat or major force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.

“I would tell you there is definitely strategic value for Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside of the box and about how to present dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt. Gen Marshall Webb, said Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air Force Association Convention.


Webb emphasized that the Command’s counterterrorism focus will not diminish in coming years but likely increase as existing threats persist and new ones emerge. At the same time, he made it clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and currently adapting its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.

“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict as well, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.

Interestingly, migrating combat-tested TTPs to a high-end fight does not seem to be an insurmountable stretch but, rather, an extension of refined combat practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Air Force Special Operations, the Special Tactics Squadron, used advanced targeting techniques to guide aircraft attacking the Taliban. This included using Forward Air Controllers to radio strike coordinates to circling attack aircraft and using laser designators to paint ground targets.

AFSOC contributions to the war in Afghanistan are highlighted in a 2017 Special Operations Annex portion of Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.

An AC-130U gunship.

“AFSOC CCTs were instrumental in the first major gain of the conflict, leveraging airpower that led to the capture of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 9, 2001 — a major breakthrough in the struggle to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.

This kind of integrated air-ground operation, used to great effect in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict as well. The prospect of needing close air support to fortify advancing units on the ground or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the kinds of scenarios anticipated in major war.

The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for instance, often circled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire its 105mm side-firing cannons to attack Taliban fighters. While there are of course major differences when between attacking insurgents and engaging in major air combat with a near-peer enemy, some of the tactics, approaches and technologies do seem to cross over and offer value to both kinds of conflict.

Webb further elaborated upon AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the service’s emerging Light Attack Aircraft. The aircraft is designed for rugged counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the Air Force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for these kinds of attack missions are at very least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare also.

“The need for the Light Attack Aircraft is an excellent requirement for AFSOC,” Webb said.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a substantial intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and offer crucial combat-relevant detail to the larger force. Advising allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in major war. Part of this intel mission includes air and ground reconnaissance using sensors, scouting forces and unique positioning in combat terrain in support of the larger fight.

Operating in small units, often somewhat autonomously, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise hard to reach, combat areas. This skill also, quite naturally, would add value in major force-on-force warfare, as well.

SOF is “out there in the hinterlands and don’t have the luxury of an F-16,” Webb explained.

The Air Force’s Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education also cites the full range of Special Operations mission sets, many of which are specifically designed for large scale war. Combat areas listed in the Doctrine text include a range of missions relevant to both COIN and major war such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control and specialized air mobility.”

The overall strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written into special ops doctrine materials. The Lemay Center’s 2017 Doctrine Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat continuum” for Special Ops missions, to include low-intensity conflict such as security cooperation and deterrence, limited contingencies and major operations.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Germany’s newest warships are total duds

The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.

In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.


Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.

The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.

Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.

The Baden-Wu00fcrttemberg, lead ship of the F125 class.
(Ein Dahmer)

Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.

In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.

During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.

For starters, the new ships are drastically overweight.

The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.

The Baden-Wurttemberg, the lead ship of the F125 class.
(Ein Dahmer)

Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.

Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.

To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.

In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.

There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.

And you thought the LCS was bad…

MIGHTY HISTORY

Only one country who developed nuclear weapons ever gave them up

In 1979, American Vela Hotel satellites detected a bright double flash near the Prince Edward Islands of Antarctica. A double-flash is a clear indication of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, as all 41 of the previous double flashes turned out to be. The only thing was this time, no one was claiming this unannounced nuclear test.

A Soviet spy later announced the flashes were caused by a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test.


The South Africans had been researching atomic energy since at least 1965, with the delivery of a U.S.-made nuclear research reactor and a supply of highly enriched uranium fuel. The country soon began to pour its resources into its own uranium enrichment programs and by 1969, was able to produce weapons-grade uranium on its own. By the 1970s, South Africa was developing nuclear explosions for use in mining, but that program quickly became a weapons development program. By the 1980s, South Africa was a nuclear weapons state.

In the 1980s, South Africa was also developing missiles that could be used with the six warheads they constructed, based on the Israeli designs for its Shavit rockets.

Israel’s Shavit rockets delivers satellites into space for the Jewish state.

It’s important to note that during this entire process, South Africa was fighting a prolonged border insurrection with its breakaway state of South West Africa and its allies in Angola and Cuba. Between 1966 and 1989, the Cold War raged hot in the southern tip of the continent as the South West African People’s Organisation wrested control of the region against the South African Defence Forces. At the same time, the South Africans were fighting Angolan and Cuban intervention, as well as insurgent groups from nearby Zambia, especially the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.

The extended fighting at their borders gave South Africa a big incentive to develop nuclear weapons to bring leverage to their position at the negotiating table. When the Western powers and the Soviet Union got wind of potential South African nuclear tests in the late 80s, they were horrified and pressured the South Africans to abort the test. But South Africa never had any intention of putting warheads on the missiles; they didn’t fit anyway. South Africa wanted the world to think they did, however.

A South African armored column in Ohangwena, Ovamboland in the 1970s.

Instead, the South Africans did the opposite. They signed a peace accord with all the belligerents they had been fighting for more than 20 years, withdrew their troops from South West Africa, and allowed the region to declare its independence as the new country of Namibia. The very next year, South Africa ended its nuclear program. Since then, it helped establish the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and became party to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, ending more than 40 years of nuclear weapons research.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Certificate of Appreciation is a slap in the face to troops

Troops always like feeling appreciated. A simple “good job” at the right time can go a long way in improving the morale of a unit. You can even take it a step further by expressing your gratitude to troops in many different ways: by releasing them early, taking them out for chow, going a little easier on them throughout the work week — you name it.

Then, there’s the Certificate of Appreciation. Given its name, it may seem like a good thing, but if you’re the type of leader that puts a troop in for one of these after they’ve worked their ass off for an extended period of time, well, you might as well just tell them they’re garbage.


Keep in mind, the Certificate of Appreciation is different from a Certificate of Achievement. They look exactly alike, have the same acronym, and they’re often treated the same way at ceremonies — but the one for achievement is actually worth something: Five promotion points each, to be exact, for a maximum of 20 points. It’s not huge, but it’s something.

2nd Lts. handing them out is fine, because it’s the best they can do and they’re at least trying to do something nice. Company commanders and above who can argue for higher have no excuse.

(Air Force photo by Ron Fair)

The other key difference between these two certificates is the approving authority involved. A Certificate of Achievement has to go through the battalion commander for approval. The Certificate of Appreciation, on the other hand, can be signed by literally anyone in the unit because all it tells a troop is that someone appreciates them. Despite that, if you look at who most often hands them out, it’s Lieutenant Colonels in battalion commander positions.

If that troop royally f*cked up, fine. But there’s nothing more discouraging than seeing everyone else get something better while you’re stuck with a CoA.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO)

Don’t get this twisted — not every action warrants official recognition. If a troop did something great or put forth a little extra effort, but it’s still well within the scope of their normal duties — like if a commo soldier brought the NIPR net back up at a critical moment — then it’s the right amount of reward. You can even make it a huge thing and officially let the unit know that you appreciate the hard work that a certain soldier put forth at the right moment.

This becomes a problem when the act was actually deserving of an award — like what happens to the many troops who “earn” one as an end-of-tour award. Troops who put heart into what they do get burnt out because they’ve earned far better than what they’re being given. Certificates of Appreciations like that are what sour it for the entire military. If you’re going to go through that extra effort to congratulate them, then make it actually matter.

It’s also costs the same amount of money on behalf of the unit, since the troops have to go out and buy the damn medal themselves after the ceremony.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

If you actually want to show a troop they’re appreciated, let them know. Hell, you can even keep the exact same format— bring the troop in front of the formation and personally thank them for what they did. Just replace the “military’s version of a high five” with an actual high five.

But when that exact same level of effort on the leadership’s part that could be put toward something that actually matters? Please don’t insult your troops like that. Hell, an Army Achievement Medal is also approved at a battalion commander-level and that could actually make a difference on a troop’s morale by appearing on their uniform — if they’ve done something worthy of it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Purple Heart was donated — can you help find its owner?

Sometimes things are donated because they’ve lost their value. Sometimes, they’re donated because their value isn’t understood.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.

The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Chrysler’s nuclear-powered tank

The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.


Nucelar Powered Tanks – Fallout 4 Real

youtu.be

So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.

To that end, they traded heavily on the obvious strategic advantage of a nuclear tank: virtually unlimited range. Gasoline has a relatively low energy density at 46.4 megajoules per kilogram. Diesel is a little better at 48 MJ/Kg. The low enriched Uranium used in many reactors boasts a whopping 5,184,000 MJ/Kg.

That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.

So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.

Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.

All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.

But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.

Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.

So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.

In 1956, an Army review recommended the termination of the program and TV-8 never made it past that first, gas-powered prototype.

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Everything you need to know about the hospital ship heading to New York—and the ones that might replace it

Typically, hospital ships are large. The two currently in service, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), are behemoths of the ocean, sporting designs based on supertankers.

Just how big are these vessels? According to Military Sealift Command, the Mercy and Comfort are almost 900 feet long, displace 69,552 tons, and have over 1,000 beds for wounded troops. They were purchased and converted in the 1980s and one is based on each coast of the United States.


USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

(US Navy)

Unfortunately, time wins out eventually, and these ships are getting up there in age — both started life as a supertanker more than four decades ago and have been used as medical ships for the last 30. Not only are these ships old, they’re also fairly alone in military service. With just two hospital ships in service, the military runs the risk of entering something similar to the Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker situation. The Mercy and Comfort are also slow — they can reach a top speed of 17 knots. What did you expect? Supertankers aren’t known for their speed.

The Military Sealift Command’s joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) patrols the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenan O’Connor)

So, it should come as no surprise that the Navy wants to replace them. But how? Well, at SeaAirSpace 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, Austal presented an interesting idea. This is the company responsible for the Independence-class littoral combat ships and the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports. Austal thinks a modified version of the latter could do the job.

A model of Austal’s proposal for a new hospital ship based on the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports.

(Harold Hutchison)

Now, the modified Spearhead has a lot less capacity (maybe 6 critical-care beds and another 12 hospital beds), but it is faster and there would likely be more than two. As a hospital ship, it remains unarmed — because nobody, in theory, is to shoot at it (doesn’t always work in practice). The model at SeaAirSpace 2018 was, like Mercy and Comfort, painted white and marked with the Red Cross.

It remains to be seen if these small, fast, hospital ships will end up on the high seas.

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‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh being released from prison

In the days following the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan, one combatant shocked the United States after his capture on an Afghan battlefield. His birth name was John Walker Lindh and he was fighting for the other side. After being sentenced to twenty years in prison, he’s on his way to being released.


The wounds from the September 11th attacks were still very fresh in America, as a wave of patriotic sentiment swept the country from sea to shining sea. For the first time in a long while, the country was reminded that it could band together during trying times. The pro-American sentiment made it all the more shocking when the United States invaded Afghanistan and found one of their own fighting for the other side, California native John Walker Lindh.

Dubbed the “American Taliban” by the media, Lindh had actually converted to Sunni Islam at age 16 and moved to Yemen to learn Arabic. In 2000 he was trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, where he received lectures from Osama bin Laden himself. When the United States invaded in the wake of 9/11, Lindh, named Sulayman al-Faris in Afghanistan, was already fighting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. According to Lindh, he never wanted to be in a position where he would fight the U.S.

Johnny Michael “Mike” Spann spent eight years as a Marine Corps officer before joining the CIA.

Lindh was captured by the Northern Alliance at Kunduz with the rest of his band of Mujahideen and turned over to the CIA for questioning. CIA officer Mike Spann interviewed Lindh because he was identified by one of the other Taliban as an English speaker. He originally claimed to be Irish. But that was the only time Spann would get an opportunity to interrogate Lindh. Later that same day, a planned prisoner uprising killed the CIA officer along with 300 Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, in one of the largest POW camp uprisings ever, now known as the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.

It took the Northern Alliance and U.S. air support, along with both British and American Special Forces six days to quell the uprising. Hundreds died on both sides of the fighting and Lindh was wounded by a bullet to the thigh. From there, Lindh was taken to Camp Rhino, where his wounds were tended and he recovered enough to eventually be sent back to the U.S. to face a grand jury.

Now you know why detainees were shipped in tight controls – because hundreds of people died when the CIA was lenient.

Unlike other combatants, Lindh was never sent to Guantanamo Bay. Instead, he was indicted on ten charges by a federal grand jury. The Bush-era justice department offered a plea if Lindh copped to only two of them: supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Lindh took the deal and a 20-year sentence. With time off for good behavior, John Walker Lindh will be walking free from the Federal Correction Institution in Terre Haute, Ind. any day now, to finish his last three years on strict probation.