Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military

Sparta Science is movement diagnostic software which is used to reduce injury risk and increase readiness. Although originally created with athletes in mind, the military is now on their list of clients.

Dr. Phil Wagner is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science. His personal experiences with injury and inadequate support led him to creating the company. “This whole thing really started because I played high school and college football and I kept getting injured, finally being told I couldn’t play anymore. I moved to New Zealand to play rugby and the same thing happened. I finally said this is ridiculous…so I went to medical school,” Wagner said.


After graduating with his medical degree with a focus in biomechanics, Wagner dove into how science could target injury reduction and assess risk for possible future injuries. “I said let’s build this tech company that could gather data on how people move to better address rehab, performance and pain in general,” he said. Wagner continued, “Our mission is people’s movement as a vital sign. That’s where the company and the product came out of and it’s where we see ourselves fitting into, particularly in the military with the injuries we are seeing.”

This country relies on all of its soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen to be mission ready at all times.

But they aren’t.

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military

Non-combat related musculoskeletal injuries account for a high percentage of why service members are undeployable, according to a study published in the Oxford Academic. In 2018, it was revealed that around 13-14% of the total force wasn’t deployable.

Although these injuries are negatively impacting mission readiness, they are also leading to lifelong complications. Musculoskeletal injuries are leading the cause of long-term disability for service members.

The impacts of no longer being able to serve due to injuries or suffering after retirement from the service are far reaching. “Mental health, movement and pain is so connected,” Wagner shared. He started working with the military after getting a call from Navy special forces asking if they could use it for their team.

“They had massive improvements the first year they did it, then they rolled it out to the other teams. I think for us, sports were our roots but our biggest growth and revenue comes from the government. It’s really satisfying because there’s so much more of a service and sacrifice approach that exists,” Wagner explained.

Statistics on nondeployable military personal with Major General Malcolm Frost

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Major General Malcom Frost (Ret) served in the United States Army for 31 years. From 2017-2019 he led the Army’s Holistic and Fitness Revolution while he was the Commanding General of Initial Training for the Army. He was also responsible for developing the Army’s new fitness test, which launched in late 2020.

“Physical fitness and readiness drive everything…We are ground soldiers who must be on terrain in combat, therefore physical fitness is a huge part of what we do,” Frost said. He continued, “I would argue that we have neglected, in many ways, the most important weapon system in the United States Army and that is the soldier.”

Frost explained that by ignoring science, having outdated fitness training facilities, lack of professional support and long waits for medical care following injury – service members are suffering. “We have really injured and hurt a lot of our soldiers,” he said. He continued, “We were spending 500 million dollars a year just in musculoskeletal injuries alone for United States Army soldiers.”

Sparta Science approached Frost not long after he retired. “They said, ‘Hey, we would like to talk to you and understand the holistic fitness system better and show you what we [Sparta Science] can do,'” he said. So, Frost took a trip to California to visit their facility.

He was amazed at what he saw.

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military

“Knowing how that could fit in, especially in the objective measurements side of the military, I thought it was the perfect match. So, I have been in the background helping them facilitate and move into the military channels to get Sparta on the map with leaders… I look at myself as the bridge,” Frost explained. He continued, “For me it’s exciting. I only get involved with organizations that I want to get involved with. They have to have a mission that I can get behind and where I can provide value. Sparta meets all of those in spades.”

Currently, you can find Sparta Science being used within the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

So how does Sparta Science work exactly? According to their website, the person has to go through The Sparta Scan™ on their “force palate” machine. It will assess stability, balance and movement. Data is compiled and an individualized Movement Signature™ created. Sparta software then compares the results to the database to identify risk and pinpoint strengths. Then the system creates an individualized training plan to reduce injury risk and improve physical performance.

On July 21, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. It includes provisions to create a commission to study the “force plate” technology and how it can increase the health and readiness of America’s military. That report will be due back to congress in September of 2021 to evaluate possibly implementing Sparta Science technology throughout all of the Department of Defense.

“Looking five years from now, I want to see the line graph [of injuries] going down on a global level,” Wagner shared. Frost agreed, “Sparta Science is a readiness multiplier”.

Sparta Science appears to have a deep commitment to bringing this technology to every branch of service to reduce injury and increase mission readiness. With the recent passage of the NDAA and their continuing education efforts, they are well on their way.

To learn more about Sparta Science, click here.

popular

Why military spouses everywhere identify with Meghan Markle

When I heard the news of Prince Harry and Meghan sitting down with Oprah in a transparent interview, I was thrilled. It was my thought this would be their opportunity to set the record straight on so much negativity spewed in the press. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard or how it would make me examine my own life as a military spouse. 

Meghan was and is an independent American woman who fell in love with someone, who just so happened to be a prince. From the outside, it looked so picturesque and romantic. I was one of the millions of people who watched their royal wedding. The beautiful outfits, world-wide traveling and ability to serve looked like an amazing life to lead. Little did any of us know how dark and ugly it really is behind the scenes. But we should have.

Those perfect pictures hid a woman who was told she needed to be less of herself. Their happy and in love smiles covered up the hurt they were feeling about the endless attack on Meghan. It definitely hid how bad things were becoming. As I watched the interview unfold, I saw the parallels to my own life as a military spouse. Being told how to act, what to say and losing your identity, having it replaced with the word “dependent;” the reminders “she should have known what she was getting into.” While the similarities might end there, it was enough to make me think about my own earlier years in this military life. The biggest difference (other than a castle and plenty of money) was the fact that I found my home and support within the community, Meghan was never given a chance.

As a therapist, I have the privilege of walking alongside my clients through some of the hardest times of their lives. The first time I heard a client tell me they wished they could disappear, I could feel the chills run down my arms. We never want to think a human being is suffering so deeply they are contemplating ending it all. While my role is to ensure they remain safe while supporting their needs through those dark thoughts, Meghan wasn’t allowed to have that lifeline. 

It infuriates me. The courage it takes to openly admit to another person that you are thinking about suicide is immense, many can’t even take such a step and instead just end their lives. To listen to her share she sought help and was told she couldn’t have it because it wouldn’t look right caused the tears to openly fall down my face. It made me think of the almost 200 military dependents we are losing each year to suicide. This is what we’ve come to, despite hundreds of years of advancement and pushing against the negative stigma of mental health needs? How dare anyone care what it looks like beyond ensuring someone’s well being. Knowing the monarchy was more important than her life is unforgivable, in my opinion. 

Photo credit: CBS/Oprah Magazine https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/a35645583/prince-harry-diana-connection-oprah-interview-preview/

Listening to Meghan share how members of the family were worried about how dark her son would be when he was born caused me to cry even more. Here is a woman who has given up everything she knew for love and is pregnant with her first child, struggling in ways we can’t even contemplate. She was completely alone. Knowing what we know now, it’s a miracle she’s alive and I don’t say it lightly.

At this moment, I want everyone to look at what Meghan and Harry shared for what it is; a chance to get it right. As a global society we’ve allowed the tabloids, social media and the news even to do this to them. We are a part of the problem. It’s an important lesson for the military community to take in as well. Let this revealing interview be a lesson to everyone on the importance of honesty, empathy and above all, kindness. Without these things, we won’t evolve as a society to ensure the generations who come after us never know hate or unkindness.

Meghan and Harry’s revelations will be debated and talked about for a long time, not all of it in Meghan and Harry’s favor. This is their truth, their experience and is absolutely their right to go on the record to share. To those who would disparage them or deny the recount of their experiences: I hope your life is perfect enough to cast stones. I don’t think you could last a moment in their shoes otherwise.

Every single one of you reading this article has experienced hurt. We all know what it feels like to be disparaged and feel the sadness or deep loneliness that often accompanies those painful moments. These are feelings that slowly chip away at the innocence many children initially have of the world, until there is no more left. It is up to all of us to change that. We can all start today and it’s really simple: be better.

Be kind.

Lists

5 of the best knife fights in film, ranked

Moviegoers across the nation love to get a fresh bucket of popcorn and sit down in front of the big screen to watch a well-crafted action film. With so many cool explosions and witty one-liners, there’s only one thing left to take a movie from great to legendary: an epic knife fight.


From a directorial standpoint, capturing an excellent knife fight on film is both dangerous and difficult, but the following movies managed to pull off the impressive feat in unique ways.

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‘Crocodile Dundee’

In 1986, New York City got its first taste of the knife-wielding, Aussie bushman, Michael J. ‘Crocodile’ Dundee. The character from down under was a huge blockbuster for Paramount Pictures and featured one of the funniest almost-knife fights to ever hit the big screen.

In a knife-measuring contest, Dundee’s unveils his monster blade and dwarfs the tiny switchblade brandished by thugs who wanted his wallet. Unfortunately for the muggers, the Aussie’s steel was far too fierce.

It may not be the most action-packed knife fight, but it’s f*cking hilarious. Who could forget this line?

“That’s not a knife, this is a knife.” — Dundee

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‘Timecop’

It’s safe to say that Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. Known for his cinematic helicopter kicks, Van Damme takes on a bunch of murderous thugs in his living room while sporting nothing but his undies.

In attempts to avenge the murder of his wife, the Belgian martial artist travels through time to try and rewrite history, defeating all the bad guys along the way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhqRjQBxEqo

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‘Kill Bill: Volume 1’

When moviegoers show up to the cinemas to watch a Tarantino film, they know they’re in for some witty dialogue and a sh*t-ton of F-bombs. When they showed up to watch Kill Bill: Volume 1, they got just that — and a whole lot of action. In this scene, our protagonist goes up against an old enemy and the two immediately draw steel. Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox put on a dazzling display — until they’re interrupted by a four-year-old girl.

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‘Under Siege’

Although 1992’s Under Siege, starring Steven Seagal, defies many of the real-life attributes of life in the Navy, it does showcase a pretty cool knife fight that you wouldn’t have expected out of acclaimed actor Tommy Lee Jones. Seagal and Jones go toe-to-toe, pitting a real-life Aikido expert up against a talented actor in one of the best knife-fight scenes ever to take place on a Navy vessel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcnenDZNm8c

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‘The Hunted’

Tommy Lee Jones takes the two top spots on this list — who would’ve thought this veteran actor was so freakin’ talented with a blade? In 2003, William Friedkin brought The Hunted to the big screen, which follows an FBI tracker (played by Jones) as he sets out to capture a trained assassin (played by Benicio Del Toro), who’s made a sport out of killing humans.

The film features some pretty epic knife fights and showcases some interesting human-tracking skills.

Articles

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

Airborne forces face a problem whenever they have to jump behind enemy lines — whether it’s to seize an enemy airfield or to take and hold territory.


The paratroopers can’t bring their own armor support, because America doesn’t currently have an airborne-certified tank or large armored vehicle. (The Stryker and the Light Armored Vehicle have undergone successful airdrop tests, but neither has been certified).

But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.

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The M551 Sheridan tank was a 16-ton tank made primarily of aluminum and employed by airborne forces. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.

The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.

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An M551 Sheridan is pulled from the back of a C-130 by the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Sheridan was crewed by four people and weighed 16 tons, light enough that it could actually swim through the water. It was powered by a 300-hp diesel engine and could hit approximately 45 mph. It could travel 373 miles between fill-ups.

The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.

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The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.

The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.

Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.

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The M551 Sheridan could be airdropped from Air Force cargo planes. Crew would follow it to the ground and get the tank up and running. (GIF: YouTube/Strength through Humility)

Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.

The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.

By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”

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The M60 Patton, which is still in service with allied nations today, was seen as more reliable and powerful than the M551. (GIF: YouTube/arronlee33)

According to an Army history pamphlet, one cavalryman told the Stars and Stripes, “We can get the job done with the Sheridan, but most cavalrymen would rather have the tank.”

The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.

The Army is, once again, looking at new light tanks or heavy-armored vehicles to support paratroopers. The new solution could be another custom-built tank, like the Sheridan. But as of summer 2016, its specifications were up in the air. It just has to be capable of an airdrop, and it has to get the job done.

Articles

This aerial dogfight was like a life-sized version of a bee swarm

Israeli Col. Giora Epstein, one of the world’s greatest fighter aces of the jet era, was leading a flight of four planes during the Yom Kippur War when his team spotted two Egyptian MiG-21s. Epstein pursued the pair and quickly shot down the trail plane.


But that’s when the Israelis got a surprise. The pair of MiG-21s were bait. While the four Israeli planes were pursuing the surviving MiG they could see, approximately 20 more MiG-21s suddenly hit them with an ambush.

What followed was one of the most lopsided victories in modern aerial combat. The four Israeli Neshers fought the approximately 21 MiGs, calling out to each other to help them avoid Egyptian MiGs or to chase down vulnerable enemies.

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The Israeli Air Force’s Nesher was a highly-capable delta-wing fighter based on the French Mirage. (Photo: brewbrooks CC BY-SA 2.0)

During the fight, Epstein’s partner shot down a MiG but got missile exhaust into his own engine, causing a stall. Epstein walked him through a restart and sent him home. Another Israeli pilot chased a MiG out of the battle area, and the third headed home due to a lack of fuel.

Epstein found himself alone with 11 enemy MiGs. What followed was minutes of insane aerial combat as Epstein’s main target pulled off a maneuver thought impossible in a MiG-21: a split S at approximately 3,000 feet. It’s a move that should have caused him to crash into the ground.

But the MiG succeeded, barely. It got so close to the ground that it created a cloud of dust against the desert ground, but then escaped the cloud and flew back toward the sky. Epstein managed to get a burst of machine gun fire out before the MiG could escape, destroying the Egyptian jet. Epstein was left in the fight with 10 MiG-21s out for vengeance for their lost comrades.

The MiGs flew in pairs against Epstein, firing bursts of machine gun fire and missiles at the Israeli ace. Epstein outmaneuvered them, killing two with 30mm cannon fire and forcing the rest to bug out.

The entire battle had taken 10 minutes. See how Epstein did it in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-IQgubLIWU
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army testing new and improved combat boots

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center at Natick is testing new Army Combat Boot (ACB) prototypes at three different basic training and active duty installations over the next four months. The effort will gather soldier feedback toward development of improved footwear.

The Army’s current inventory of boots includes seven different styles designed for different environments and climates. The boots issued initially to recruits are the Hot Weather and Temperate Weather Army Combat Boots. Requirements for these are managed by the Army Uniform Board as part of the recruit “Clothing Bag.” The Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment maintains and updates the specifications for both boots.


The current generation of Army Combat Boots has not undergone substantial technical or material changes since 2010. New material and technologies now exist that may improve physical performance and increase soldier comfort.

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(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Great strides have been made recently in the Army’s environment specific footwear, for jungle, mountain, or cold weather locations, but there is substantial room for improvement in the general purpose boots which are issued to new recruits,” explains Anita Perkins, RDECOM Soldier Center footwear research engineer and technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. “Most components of these combat boots have not been updated in almost 30 years.”

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(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Surveys conducted by the Soldier Center report soldier satisfaction with ACBs is lower than that with commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, boots, leading many soldiers to purchase and wear COTS boots.

“The survey of over 14,000 soldiers world-wide discovered that almost 50% choose to wear COTS combat boots instead of Army-issued boots,” Perkins said. “Many soldiers reported choosing combat boots from the commercial market because the COTS boots are lighter, more flexible, require less break-in time, and feel more like athletic shoes than traditional combat boots or work boots.

Unfortunately, these characteristics often come at the cost of durability and protection.”

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(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, COTS boots and the durable, protective, Army boots. Recent advancements in synthetic materials and rapid prototyping can produce a boot with potentially the same protection, support, and durability of current Army boots, but lighter and more comfortable out of the box. To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots.

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(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30% lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.

When working with industry to develop the prototype boots for this effort, Adams and Perkins put an emphasis on cutting weight. The boots being tested are up to 1.5 pounds lighter per pair than the ACBs currently being issued.

“In terms of energy expenditure or calories burned, 1-pound of weight at the feet is equivalent to 4-pounds in your rucksack,” Adams said.

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(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January 2019 and then return in March and April 2019 to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.

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(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” said Adams. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of soldiers”.

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Simultaneous to the field testing, lab testing will be conducted on the boots at the Soldier Center to quantify characteristics like flexibility, cushioning, cut/abrasion resistance, and breathability. The combination of lab testing and soldier recommendations will identify soldier-desired improvements to the boot prototypes and rank the state-of-the-art materials and designs for soldier acceptance, durability, and safety. The Soldier Center will then provide recommendations to PM SPIE and the Army Uniform Board to drive the next generation of Army Combat Boots.

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“The development of new boots take advantage of the latest materials technology, and are functional and comfortable, is critical to ensuring that our soldiers are ready to fight and win in any environment,” said Doug Tamilio, director of the RDECOM Soldier Center. “Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset, and we owe it to them to make them more lethal to win our nation’s wars, and then come home safely.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 6 most hated small arms in military history

Some weapons are universally loved by the troops that carry them. Others somehow make it past the drawing board, through testing, and into the hands of soldiers — who then hate them. These are the most reviled.


6. The Ross Rifle

The Ross Rifle was a Canadian rifle with some interesting design features that saw service in WWI. For one, it had a single-motion bolt that was supposed to make it quicker to fire than the turn-and-pull style of conventional rifles. However, this feature also allowed for the rifle to be reassembled incorrectly and still fire, which resulted in the bolt flying out the back and killing or maiming the shooter.

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Also, despite excellent accuracy in range conditions, the rifle proved very susceptible to jamming when caked with the dirt and mud of combat. Additionally, the bayonet of the Ross also had a tendency to fall off when the weapon was fired. The performance of the rifle was so poor that many Canadian soldiers discarded them in favor of Lee-Enfields they took from dead British soldiers.

5. Breda 30

The Breda 30 was an Italian light machine gun used in WWII. Italian designers were having trouble with round extraction and arrived at a solution that arguably made things worse. The gun had a system that lubricated each cartridge as it entered the chamber with the idea that it would make extraction easier. In reality, the oil attracted dust and dirt, which fouled the action and slowed the gun’s rate of fire. Despite the slowed rate of fire, the barrel would still heat up, which would inevitably heat up the oil and, in turn, cook off a round in the chamber.

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Which was terrible if you were firing while riding a motorcycle.

If that wasn’t a poor enough design, the gun also had a fixed, 20-round box magazine that had to be loaded with stripper clips. To say the troops weren’t fond of the Breda would be an understatement. The Breda was such a poor weapon, Italian troops often had battles turn against them because they could not keep up sufficient fire.

4. Sten gun

The Sten gun is one of those weapons that, despite serious drawbacks, was able to stay in service after much-needed improvements. Designed and built under the threat of a German invasion, the early models of the Sten, especially the Mk II’s and Mk III’s, were cheap and poorly made, earnings them nicknames, such as “Plumber’s abortion” and “the Stench gun.”

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military
Still, it looks cool.

Sten guns were notoriously unreliable and had issues with misfires, even when simply set down. The issues were so pervasive that units would extensively test their Sten guns before combat in order to weed out the bad ones. Eventually, as improvements were made and quality improved, Mk V versions of the Sten would see combat with British paratroopers and other frontline units.

3. FP-45 Liberator

The FP-45 Liberator was a small gun meant to be distributed to guerrillas and resistance forces throughout Europe and Asia. The pistol, though firing a .45 caliber round, was only single-shot and required a wooden dowel to remove the spent cartridge. It also had an effective range of about 25 feet.

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This was meant to have a great psychological effect on the enemy. However, the pistol never really got a chance to be hated by the troops as neither the generals in Europe or the Pacific saw the weapon as worth using. Large numbers of the pistols were passed on to the OSS, but they didn’t find them worth giving out either.

2. M16

Like the Sten gun, the M16 had a troubled beginning but, after improvements, later found affection from the troops who carried it. In its early days, in the jungles of Vietnam, the supposedly self-cleaning rifle failed in combat conditions. The major problem was a “failure to extract,” or when the chamber became fouled due to excessive firing. U.S. troops, not issued sufficient cleaning kits, were often found killed with their rifles disassembled as they tried to clean them and remove the jammed cartridge in the middle of a firefight.

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military
TFW your primary motivation for killing the enemy is to take his AK.

American troops hated the new rifle. However, the U.S. military quickly made changes to the rifle that increased its reliability. Despite early issues, it has gone on to be the longest-serving standard rifle in the U.S. military.

1. Chauchat

The Chauchat is perhaps the most-hated weapon on this list. Designed by the French to operate as a light machine gun carried by one man, it had numerous shortcomings. One major problem was its open-sided, half-moon magazine. The open side allowed mud and dirt to enter the magazine, impeding the ability to feed and causing stoppages. The long recoil operation of the gun also caused stoppages when it heated up and jammed the barrel to the rear.

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Zut alors!

The weapon was so unreliable that, in combat conditions, it frequently jammed after only 100 rounds. Unfortunately for the troops, there was no alternative for a light machine gun until the Americans brought the BAR into action near the end of the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This monstrosity was probably Germany’s worst plane

I would write an intro about how, in the end days of World War II, Germany was short on manpower, territory, and resources, but nearly every article about Germany’s failed super weapons starts that way. So, just, you know, remember that Germany was desperate at the end of World War II because Hitler was high on drugs and horrible at planning ahead when he invaded his neighbors.


Natter Assault! Germany’s Vertical Launch Fighter

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So, on the list of harebrained schemes that the Nazis turned to in order to stave off their inevitable defeat, the Natter has to be one of the craziest. Basically, because they were low on metal and airstrips and they thought rockets seemed awesome, the Nazis made a single-use, vertically launched, rocket-powered plane that only fired rockets. These were supposed to be “grass snakes” that rose from the forests of Germany and slaughtered Allied bombers.

Oddly enough, the Germans were also critically short of the C-Stoff fuel for the more conventional Me-163 rocket fighter, but they went ahead and used the same fuel for the Natter anyway, leading General of Fighters Adolf Galland to tell a colonel that:

…because of a special SS initiative, a defensive surface-to-air rocket aircraft is supposed to be forced into production. And they will be propelled by C-Agent as well. That is the height of stupidity, but it’s also fact.
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“Eh, needs more rockets.”

(Anagoria, CC BY 3.0)

Oh, and, worst of all, the planes couldn’t land without breaking apart.

The Natter, officially designated the Ba-349, was made primarily of wood. It would be strapped to a tree or, in its test flights, a special but cheaply built tower. They would then fire four solid boosters to get the aircraft into the sky before the main rocket motor could kick in.

Assuming everything didn’t go to hell during that not-at-all-dangerous process, the pilot could then maneuver onto incoming bombers and fire up to 24 rockets at them. Since the Natter flew at over twice the speed of a B-17’s max, the pilots really needed to fire their rockets accurately and quickly before they overshot their target.

Once they were out of ammo, the pilot would release the nose and deploy the parachutes. The nose would fall separately from the rest of the plane and, hopefully, the parts would land safely. The parts and the pilot would be recovered and ready for another round.

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“This will save the war.”

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

It, uh, did not work properly. On the second unmanned test flight, the flight components hit the ground with fuel remaining. That fuel blew up, destroying the plane. But because the blast wouldn’t have—necessarily—killed the pilot, they went ahead with a manned flight.

That flight went worse. No offense to the Nazi test pilot. On March 1, 1945, Lothar Sieber took off in a Ba-349, but it immediately started flying inverted and climbed into cloud cover. It emerged from the clouds a few minutes later and crashed into the ground, miles away.

The pilot was dead, either from the shock of takeoff, the canopy flying off in flight, or the crash. The plane was destroyed. And everyone finally gave up on the idea of the Natter.

Not that it would have changed much if it had been controllable. The western Allies crossed into Germany about two weeks later, and a few rocket-powered fighters wouldn’t have stopped the advance. But, hey, “Grass Snake” at least looks cool on a T-shirt.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.

Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.


Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.

The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.

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The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.

(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.

“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.

“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.

The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)

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The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.

Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.

The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.

Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”

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Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.

In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.

The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)

But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.

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The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)

The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.

The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.

“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.

“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

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

popular

What happens when you cover an enemy grenade with your kevlar

In April 2004, a convoy of Marines came under small arms and RPG fire near Karabilah, Iraq. Marines from Camp Husaybah were dispatched to go in search of the attackers. While searching vehicles for weapons at a checkpoint, one Marine was assaulted by an unknown Iraqi holding a grenade. That Marine was Cpl. Jason Dunham.


The two fell to the ground. From the Iraqi’s hand came a live grenade. Dunham threw himself on top of it, covering the grenade with his kevlar helmet and his body. When it exploded, the grenade shredded his helmet and mortally wounded the 22-year-old Dunham. He died a few days later, on Apr. 22, 2004.

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On the table is what remained of Cpl. Dunham’s kevlar helmet after taking a full grenade blast.

Jason Dunham did what he thought was the right thing to do: heroically throwing himself on a grenade to save others. The selfless act rightfully earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his family by President George W. Bush in January 2007. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer now bears his name (and his dress uniform, complete with Medal of Honor, on its quarterdeck).

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Dunham (left) posthumously received the Medal of Honor three years later. An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was named USS Jason Dunham in his honor. He was the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Navy courtesy photo)

Using the kevlar helmet did blunt the explosion, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter who followed Dunham’s story very closely. But the shrapnel pierced Dunham’s skull and he suffered heavy brain damage. No one else in the area received life-threatening injuries.

What makes the story even more remarkable is that Cpl. Dunham and his fellow Marines had been talking about the very same eventuality just a few days prior — what to do in case you have to respond to a grenade attack. One Marine advised kicking it away. Another said to drop and make yourself a small target for the fragments with your feet facing the grenade. Dunham’s response to the real-life situation was exactly what he said it should be: He covered it with his helmet.

Is that the best way to handle a grenade? No, but in the opinion of other infantry veterans, Dunham did the right thing. Anyone who covers a grenade with their kevlar is going to be severely wounded. And, chances are, Dunham would probably have been killed by the grenade regardless due to his proximity. But his helmet likely absorbed all of the grenade’s shrapnel and allowed his fellow Marines to come out relatively unscathed.

But what do you do if you don’t have a hero like a Jason Dunham to throw himself on a grenade and save you? Dan Rosenthal, an infantry veteran and three-time top Quora writer, has some advice for those who face a grenade without any cover to hide behind. First and foremost, don’t try to throw it back. You have about three to five seconds of reaction time, so running isn’t an option. Basically, expect to get hit – but minimize where and how much you’re hit to maximize your chances of survival.

If you didn’t dig your defensive fighting position with a grenade sump, the best thing you can do is get down on the ground with your kevlar pointed toward the blast. Helmets (and modern shoulder pads) were designed to protect from fragmentation.

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Might be worth the effort.

Your second best bet is to put your feet toward the blast. This technique is most notable for civilians falling victim to a terrorist attack that uses grenades. Minimize exposure to the blast and make yourself a small target for the fragmentation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch a young Chuck Yeager test fly a stolen MiG-15

Brigadier General Chuck Yeager is best-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier. He was also a World War II ace and saw action in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying B-57s. But did you know that this aerial all-star also logged time in the MiG-15?


The MiG-15 in question was flown from North Korea to Seoul by No Kum-sok, a defector who, upon landing, learned that he was fulfilling a $100,000 bounty by delivering the plane into allied hands. The MiG-15 was quickly taken back to the United States and put through its paces.

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The last moments of a MiG-15 — many of these planes met their end in MiG Alley.

(US Navy)

Test pilots are known for getting in the cockpit of new, unproven vehicles and using their skills and adaptability to safely maneuver vessels through early flights. They’ve flown the X-15 into space and are responsible for putting the newest fighters, like the F-35, through their paces. But what’s just as important (and half as reported) is role they play in exploring the capabilities of foreign aircraft, like a MiG, Sukhoi, or some other international plane.

This is why the “Akutan Zero,” a Japanese plane that crashed on June 4, 1942 over Alaskan soil, was so important. It gave the US invaluable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an enemy’s asset, informing the design of the F6F Hellcat.

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This is the MiG-15 that was flown to South Korea by a North Korean defector.

(USAF photo)

The MiG-15 of the Korean War wasn’t quite as fearsome as the Zero was in World War II. In fact, the F-86 dominated it over “MiG Alley.” But finding out just how good – or bad – the MiG-15 really was still mattered. After all, American allies, like Taiwan, ended up facing the MiG-15 later in the 1950s (the Taiwanese planes ended up using the AIM-9 Sidewinder to deadly effect).

The MiG-15 still is in service with the North Korean Air Force, meaning Yeager’s half-a-century-old flight still informs us today.

Learn more about Yeager’s time flying the MiG-15 in the video below.

www.youtube.com

Articles

13 signs you’re an infantryman

Here’s when you know you’re probably an infantryman in the Army or Marine Corps, better known as a grunt.


#1: Whether it’s on the ground, in a bed, or in a helicopter, you can pass out ANYWHERE.

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#2: You survive on this stuff, because it’s an amazing grunt power source.

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#3: You have eaten way more of these than you’d care to remember.

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#4: You wear camouflage uniforms so much, you wonder why they even issued you those dress uniforms that just sit in a wall locker.

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What are those things on the right? (Photo Credit: usmarineis5150.tumblr.com)

#5: The aging of your body accelerates beyond what you imagined was possible.

#6: This is “the field,” and it’s your office.

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Photo Credit: US Army

#7: The guys in your fire team/squad/platoon know more about you than your own family. They are also willing to do anything for you.

#8: You have probably heard some crusty old enlisted guy say “all this and a paycheck too!”

#9: Your day often starts with a “death run” or a “fun run.” It is never actually fun.

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Photo Credit: 26th MEU

#10: You watch “moto” videos of grunts in combat and get pumped up.

#11: A port-a-john in Iraq or Afghanistan (or anywhere really) has three purposes, not just “going #1 or #2.”

#12: If you are pumped up to deploy, you remember Iraq or Afghanistan is usually way more boring than people think, and the last time you went, your entire platoon watched “The O.C.” or some other show during free time.

#13: You really regret not wearing earplugs more.

DON’T MISS: 21 photos showing the life of an elite US Army Ranger

MIGHTY CULTURE

How pilot training has changed over the years

Pilot training is constantly changing to ensure students have an environment where they not only learn to fly, but to adapt and quickly out-think their enemies.

With senior leadership making innovation a priority, the Air Force has changed how airmen are trained and how they become proficient at their jobs. This in turn has changed the way the Air Force develops pilots and what pilot training currently looks like.

For instance, pilot training currently consists of three phases starting with the academic and simulator phase. After the academic phase, student pilots are sent to train in the T-6A Texan II, the primary training aircraft.

Once the students complete the second phase, they are selected for either the airlift/tanker track in the T-1A Jayhawk, or the fighter/bomber track in the T-38C Talon.


“When I went through pilot training in the late 1960s, we started off flying the Cessna T-41 Mescalero for six weeks, the T-37 Tweet for five months and finished training in the T-38 Talon for a total of 52 weeks of training,” said Jim Faulkner, Vance Air Force Base, a graduate of pilot training, class of 1968.

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U.S. Air Force Cessna T-41 Mescalero.

Although students in the 1960s and students today reach the same goal, there have been adjustments made over the course of time to focus pilots on mastering the specific style of aircraft they will fly once training has finished.

In addition to changes in the training aircraft, there have been technological advancements to improve the way students operate an aircraft.

“We had simulators, but the concepts that they covered were limited and did not give us any visual aids to look at while training,” said Jim Mayhall, pilot training graduate, class of 1967.

In the same way that older generations used simulators to gather a feel of the aircraft and location of instruments, current students use simulators to familiarize themselves with flying maneuvers and concepts before they reach the cockpit. The changes in technology have the potential to give students more realistic training for what they will experience in the cockpit.

“Being able to gain exposure to 360-degree videos of the local area, patterns and virtual-reality videos saves money and time,” said 1st Lt. Jason Mavrogeorge, 8th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot.

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2nd Lt. Kenneth Gill, a student pilot assigned to the 71st Student Squadron, and Capt. Peter Shufeldt, an instructor pilot assigned to the 33rd Flying Training Squadron, start up the T-6 Texan II before take-off, May 2, 2019, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft the student pilots learn to fly before moving on to other aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Zoe T. Perkins)

“Students should have seen the arrivals, departures and instrument approaches before their first flight,” Mavrogeorge said. “Giving the students more flying experience gives them confidence and allows me to enhance their flying skills as an instructor.”

Similar to the technological changes made within pilot training, there have been changes in monitoring the safety of pilots while flying.

The safety standards did not require pilots to wear a G-suit in the T-37 Tweet. When the T-37 was replaced with the more maneuverable T-6A Texan II, pilots were required to wear a G-suit during flight to prevent the possibility of losing consciousness.

All the great changes and advancements in pilot training are possible thanks to those who laid the groundwork and figured out what to avoid.

“The only thing that remains constant in the Air Force pilot training program is that we will continue to produce great Air Force aviators and future leaders,” Mayhall said.

Vance trains more than 350 pilots a year, totaling over 34,000 since pilot training began in 1941.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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