This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

The young pilot struggled against dust and wind that swirled 10,000 feet above valleys sandwiched between Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. He had only a rudimentary pair of plain glass goggles to protect his face. Yet he was determined to find the trail of the rebel bandit Pancho Villa who had recently led a raid into New Mexico that killed eight U.S. Soldiers and 10 American civilians.

That young pilot, Capt. Benjamin Foulois, was in one of eight Curtis JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes participating in the search. The planes were powered with 90-horsepower engines that had a rough time just staying airborne, but they led a reconnaissance mission to kick off Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico.


It was March 1916, little more than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and only seven years after Foulois was taught to fly by Orville Wright himself, becoming the first military aviator. He later became a major general, and in 1931 was appointed Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

That small unit of Jenny biplanes, in search of Villa and his Mexican marauders more than 100 years ago, were members of the 1st Aero Squadron, the first aviation unit to participate directly in a military action, flying 346 hours on 540 flights during Pershing’s expedition. The first mission covered more than 19,300 miles, and included aerial reconnaissance and photography as well as transporting mail and official dispatches.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

The first Curtiss JNÐ2s of 1st Aero Squadron at the Signal Corps Aviation School, North Island, Cali. Sgt. Vernon L. Burge stands under the propeller. In the cockpit is Capt. Benjamin Foulois and second man from the right is Jacob Bollinger.

The squadron was formed March 5, 1913, giving it the distinction of being the oldest flying squadron still in existence.

The unit has alternated between reconnaissance and bombing missions and had its name tweaked 14 times since the provisional 1st Aero Squadron unfurled its colors in Texas City, Texas. Its Airmen have flown 47 different types of aircraft and served in more than 50 locations throughout the world.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

In the year of the 1st Aero Squadron’s formation, Lt. Thomas D. Milling, instructor, and Lt. Fred Seydel, student, are at the controls of a Wright C., SC-16 Trainer on airfield in Texas City, Texas, May 1913. In front of the plane, 8 other soldiers in uniform and a civilian in white shirt and bow tie stand posed facing the camera.

Today, it’s the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, a part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, with the responsibility of training high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2S pilots and sensor operators.

The squadron has a reputation for being a pioneer in establishing ISR capability and establishing a legacy of supplying critical information to combatant commanders across the joint force.

“The legacy of the 1st Recon Squadron is a microcosm of the legacy of the Air Force,” said Richard Rodrigues, former 9th RW historian. “It was the organization that pioneered the first tactical deployment of U.S. military airpower, and it helped create some of our early leaders that had an impact on the Air Service and later the Air Corps.”

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S Aug. 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings.

A little over a year after its famous recon mission over Mexico, the squadron would enter World War I, traveling from New Mexico to New York, then by ship across the Atlantic to land in Le Havre, France and become the first American squadron to enter the war. The 1st Aero Squadron took on the role as an observation unit, initially flying the French Dorand AR 1 and 2 aircraft, a two-seater recon plane, and later the Salmson 2A2.

According to Rodrigues, the squadron was in constant action throughout the “Great War” supplying divisional commanders vital information as to where the front line elements actually were, where artillery barrages need to be laid down in advance of the infantry and for causing disruption to enemy forces behind lines. Later, as positions became stabilized, photographs were obtained behind enemy lines to learn the dispositions of enemy forces.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

A Salmson 2A2 of the 1st Aero Squadron over France during WWI, 1918.

“The unit aided the stand of the Marines at Chateau-Thierry and prevented the German army from crossing the Marne River. The squadron also fought at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, all important campaigns for the allies,” said Rodrigues. Those campaign victories represent the four Maltese crosses found on the 9th RW’s unit emblem.

Rodrigues added that although reconnaissance and artillery surveillance were the primary duties of the 1st AS, squadron pilots flying French SPAD fighters scored 13 aerial victories, represented by 13 Maltese crosses on the 1st Recon Squadron’s emblem. A total of 16 officers lost their lives, with three more missing in action.

After the war, the mission and the name of the unit changed to the 1st Observation Squadron, with the unit relocating to Camp Mills, New York. Its base would change names to Mitchel Field, and observation aircraft would be updated to the Douglas O-2, Curtiss O-1 and O-39. The unit would keep its observation role until 1935. They even used Douglass O-35s to deliver the U.S. Mail.

The unit then made a huge overhaul, going from observation unit to bomber squadron: the 1st Bombardment Squadron. The observation planes were replaced with Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 bombers and the Airmen began learning new tactics at large training sites in Maryland, Florida, California, Michigan, and Virginia.

At the outset of World War II in 1942, the 1st BS moved to the island of Trinidad to strengthen defenses around the Panama Canal and defend against German U-boat attacks in the Caribbean and Atlantic. In October 1942 the squadron set up a tactics and bombing school in Florida.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

A 1st Bombardment Squadron Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress tail number 42-24791 nicknamed the “Big Time Operator.” After storage at Naval Air Station, China Lake, Cali, the nose of the bomber was acquired by the Air Force Museum and was grafted onto museum building at Beale AFB, Cali. in 1986.

In February 1945, the squadron began flying B-29s from Tinian Island in the Marianas chain as part of the 20th Air Force. The squadron completed 71 combat missions, including bombing raids over Iwo Jima in preparation for its invasion by U.S. Marines and night incendiary raids on the Japanese home islands, winning two Distinguished Unit citations. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a round-robin of assignments throughout the Pacific kept the squadron fully employed.

While stationed in Guam in 1947, the newly created Department of the Air Force issued orders to deactivate the unit.

However, the Air Force rescinded those orders and instead moved the unit to Topeka, Kansas, where it joined Strategic Air Command and became the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron’s unbroken lineage remained intact.

With U.S. and the Soviet Union entering a global standoff known as the Cold War, the squadron returned to its bombing role, armed again with B-29s, including three nuclear-capable B-29MR bombers. It participated in several rotations between Travis AFB, California, and Guam during the Korean War. Then in 1953, it was transferred to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where it flew the B-47 Stratojet bombers.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

Crew members in front of a B-47E Stratojet of the 1st Bombardment Squadron, 9th Bombardment Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho in 1956.

For the next 12 years, the squadron would play an important part in America’s nuclear deterrent force and began a series of deployments to England, Guam, Okinawa and Alaska. Then the squadron’s mission would dramatically change once again with the secret development of a new plane by Lockheed Aircraft Company.

The SR-71 “Blackbird” was announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson and joined the Air Force inventory in 1966. This new, advanced surveillance aircraft gave the Air Force an intelligence weapon that could fly three times the speed of sound, at altitudes higher than 80,000 feet. The SR-71’s versatility included simple battlefield surveillance, multiple-sensor high-performance interdiction reconnaissance, and strategic surveillance over large areas of the world. It used the most advanced observation equipment in the world, carrying sensors with a 45 degree viewing angle on each side that could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour. It would totally change the future for the Air Force’s oldest flying squadron.

The 1st SRS was now in its heyday, gathering photographic and electronic intelligence products over Southeast Asian nations during the Vietnam War. The unit moved to its current location at Beale AFB in June 1966, and the 1st SRS was on its way to conducting missions that supported national intelligence-gathering requirements.

Retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua was one of those early SR-71 pilots at Beale AFB and said what he and other pilots did in the 1960s was no different from Orville Wright or the Global Hawk flights today.

“We made history then, and we continue to make history today,” Bevacqua said.

He and Maj. Jerry Crew were on their first mission over Hanoi, their third over North Vietnam, when a SA-2 missile fired on them, passing just ahead and below their aircraft. It was the first time an SR-71 had ever been fired upon. By the time Bevacqua retired in 1973, he had logged nearly 750 hours in the Blackbird.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

An SR-71B Blackbird sits on the runway after sundown.

After the war, 1st SRS Airmen logged some spectacular accomplishments. Of these the most notable were the SR-71 speed runs from New York to London and from London to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, 1974, Maj. James Sullivan, pilot and Maj. Noel Widdifield, RSO, flew their SR-71 from New York to London in 1 hour, 55 minutes, 42 seconds for an average speed of 1,817 mph.

The SR-71 crew of Capt. Harold Adams, pilot, and Maj. William Machorek, RSO, established a record for the London to Los Angeles route when they flew the 5,645 mile leg in 3 hours, 48 minutes on Sept. 13.

For budgetary reasons, the SR-71 was retired from the Air Force inventory in 1990. The Blackbird’s final journey was from California to Washington D.C. where it became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. It was an SR-71 flown by the 1st SRS crew, which made the coast-to-coast trip in a record time of 68 minutes, 17 seconds—at a record speed of 2,242.48 mph.

Today, the squadron is the formal initial training unit for the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The squadron recruits and trains all the U-2 pilots that fly high-altitude reconnaissance flights around the world. After initial interviews, orientation flights, and selection for the program, new pilots undergo approximately six months of extensive training, including 20 sorties in the U-2. The rigorous flying training programs produce 24 U-2S pilots, 48 RQ-4 pilots, and 36 RQ-4 sensor operators annually.

Upon graduation, crewmembers are not only mission-ready in the U-2, but also checked out in the T-38 companion trainer. They then transfer to the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron and prepare for a tour at one of the overseas detachments.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

Airmen work on an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it returned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as part of a four-ship rotation out of the theater.

The 1st RS also trains mission planners. Mission planners have to know the wing’s mission, the aircraft and sensors capabilities, plus detailed information on target and threat assessment at specific locations. After planners complete training, they deploy to the overseas detachments and design flight tracks that allow pilots to gather the best data with the least personal risk.

According to former squadron commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, the 1st RS’s mission isn’t that much different from the one over New Mexico 100 years ago.

“It’s interesting because the first mission with aircraft was to be the eyes for the troops on the ground,” said Rodriguez. “The old mission was an extension of the ground troops, but it’s evolved. We organize, train and equip our squadron members to be leaders in the ISR mission. We are the eyes and ears of the nation and our fighting forces, and we operate over a broad spectrum of conflict.”

The 1st RS aims to increase their level of experience with a new, innovative Aviation Fundamentals Training program funded through the Squadron Innovation Fund.

“We are having our RQ-4 student pilots receive additional training flying with the Beale Aero Club while they are going through the Formal Training Unit,” said Maj. Daniel, 13th Reconnaissance Squadron FTU flight commander. “It is a continuation of the training they receive in Initial Flight Training.”

The FTU partnered with the Beale Aero Club to ensure pilots receive more experience in the local airspace by taking to the cockpit and flying aircraft closer to those flown early in the previous century: Cessna 172s.

“We started it to give the new pilots more experience in the air,” said Daniel. “AFT is designed to essentially improve airmanship, communication and situational awareness. We just wanted to give them more experience for when they show up to their operational Global Hawk units.”

AFT has already shown promising signs, and if it continues to receive funding, it could become an integral part of Global Hawk pilot training.

“I think the more experience we can give a pilot flying in the air will pay dividends years down the road,” said Daniel. “They are going to be better pilots operationally flying the Global Hawk, which is a mission with huge implications. They will also be better pilots when they become instructors themselves.”

For nearly a century, the 1st RS, the Air Force’s oldest squadron, continues to play a vital role in America’s defense.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

Crew members of the 1st Aero Squadron next to a Salmson 2A2 painted with the American flag squadron emblem during WWI in France in 1918.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marines compete to find the Corps’ most lethal tank crew

The hot California sun beamed, drawing beads of sweat, but the US Marines, Vietnam veterans and members of the local community were heedless. Hands holding phones, binoculars and video cameras hovered as they anxiously waited for another ground shaking explosion.

A murmur erupted from the sweat-slicked crowd perched on top of the Range 409A observation point as 4th Tank Battalion’s M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fired another dead-center hit during TIGERCOMP Aug. 29, 2019, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

According to Lt. Col. Matthew Zummo, the commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion, TIGERCOMP has been the Marine Corps tank gunnery competition since 1996. The three Marine Tank Battalions compete to determine the Corps’ most lethal tank crew. Following a six-year break from 2003-2009, the competition was reignited in 2010.


“First Tanks is hosting this year’s competition,” said Zummo. “We selected Range 409A as the venue to enable a better spectator experience compared to the usual Range 500 at 29 Palms. The winning crew will have the opportunity to compete in the Sullivan Cup, which is the Army’s total force tank gunnery competition.”

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

US Marines selected to compete in TIGERCOMP meet the local and military community on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

US Marine veteran Michael Jiron watches the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

A medium tactical vehicle replacement at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

US Marine Corps videographer Pfc. Jacob Yost records an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

US Marine 1st Lt. Daniel Lyrla, operations officer in charge of planning TIGERCOMP, talks to the local and military communities during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

US Marines with 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve celebrate during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

In the end, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, collected the enormous TIGERCOMP trophy, the pride and joy of the tank community.

Stay tuned to watch the Marines compete against the soldiers in the Sullivan Cup, the Army’s precision gunnery competition. The next competition that will rigorously test US soldiers, US Marines and international partners is set for 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Saving Private Ryan’ is coming back to the screen for the 75th anniversary of D-Day

There aren’t many war movies better than Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece. It’s definitely worth watching at home, but you’ll soon have a chance to see it in theaters again, more than two decades after its original release.

The film is returning to theaters to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Participating theaters will host a matinee at 3:00 p.m. on June 2, 2019, and an evening screening at 7:00 on June 5, 2019. D-Day took place on June 6, 1944.


Saving Private Ryan tells the story of a squad of Army Rangers played by Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribis, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies. Led by John Miller (Tom Hanks), their mission is to find and rescue a paratrooper, Ryan (Matt Damon), the only survivor of his four military brothers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYID71hYHzg
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Official Trailer (1998) Tom Hanks HD Movie | TrueMovies Trailer

www.youtube.com

Saving Private Ryan was a commercial and critical hit when it was first released. It was the highest grossing film of 1998, grossing 1 million that year, the equivalent of about 0 million today. It received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing, infamously losing the Best Picture race to Shakespeare in Love.

The opening scene of the film is a sprawling, brutal 20-plus minute recreation of the invasion that immerses the viewer in the horrors of combat without glorifying war.

Saving Private Ryan D-Day Scene

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“[W]e wanted people to get the feeling that despite what you see in movies and what you read in books, death in hellacious combat like there was on Omaha Beach can sometimes be very random, and it can be shocking because it’s so close,” Marine veteran Dale Dye, the film’s military advisor, told Task Purpose.

It’s the kind of scene, and the kind of film, that deserves to be seen in theaters, so don’t miss this opportunity.

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

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Watch rare footage of a Kamikaze attack caught on film

Kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted their nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.


Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of the war occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After a mission had been planned, the pilots of the “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.

Related: This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
These Kamikaze pilots pose together for the last time in front of a zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip.

On Apr. 6, 1944, Marines and sailors aboard Naval vessels located in the Pacific were going about their regular workday knowing the enemy was planning something soon — something big.

On the nearby island, the Japanese gathered every operational plane remaining in their arsenal. Many of the Kamikaze pilots were inexperienced but highly devoted to the Empire.

Once they were armed and loaded, the flying fleet took off in waves heading toward their American targets.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
A Kamikaze operated plane takes off from the Japanese airstrip heading toward their American target. (Source: Smithsonian Channel)

As the suicidal pilots reached their target, they began an attack that would supersede any air raid in history. Over the course of two days, over 350 enemy planes imposed absolute havoc on the allied vessels.

As American forces defended themselves with well-trained fighter pilots and ship gunners, the enemies’ ambitious nature proved costly.

The Japanese crashed over 1,900 planes in choreographed kamikaze dives around Okinawa — sinking a total 126 ships and damaging 64 others.

Also Read: This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
Sailors and Marines work together putting out the fires caused by the Kamikaze pilots. (Source: Smithsonian Channel/ Screenshot)

Although the destruction took a toll on allied forces, it also helped fortify their motivation to continue with the fight — eventually defeating their Japanese adversaries.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to see the historic and rare footage for yourself.

Smithsonian Channel, YouTube
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6 reasons why most sci-fi weapons would be terrible

Regardless of medium, whenever there’s a futuristic, science-fiction war going on, there are lasers. Laser guns, laser swords, laser cannons — laser everything. Now, this isn’t to say that lasers are an impossibility in the real world. In fact, the U.S. military has kept an eye on developing high-powered, laser-based weaponry since the 1960s. Even today, the U.S. military is using lasers to heat up objects, like missiles, to take them down with speed, accuracy, and ease.


But here’s why the sci-fi staple, as we know it, would suck in the real world.

6. The shot itself

The problem with lasers as seen in popular films like Star Wars is that they don’t obey the laws of physics. A laser gun used in combat would feel more like the pen you use to play with cats than any kind of real rifle. Applying actual science to the pop culture weaponry shines a light on how terrible they’d actually be.

There are many works of fiction that employ laser weaponry, so it’s hard to pinpoint all of the problems. If you want to be precise, just know that if the blast moves at a rate slower than 299,792,458 meters per second, then it’s not a laser. Since you can actually see them move in films, they’re plasma — so we’re going to assume this discussion is actually about plasma weaponry from here on out.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
Score one for Star Trek for getting that right. (Paramount Television)

5. The cost to produce the weapon

This may not be too much of an issue given that futuristic civilizations often have an entire planet’s or galaxy’s GDP at their disposal, but it’s still worth mentioning. The parts needed aren’t the problem — it’s the power supply that creates the laser and directs it into a single blast.

The power supply would need to be powerful enough to create a blast that deals significant damage. So, you’re looking for elements higher on the periodic table. Even if a fictional, galactic empire had the money, based purely on how unstable radioactive elements above uranium are, you can assume that the means of mining or synthetically creating the power supply needed would be insanely expensive.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
That is, of course, unless you’re supplied with a new unobtainable element creatively named Unobtainium. (20th Century Fox)

4. The weight of the power supply

Unless the power supply is explicitly described as some impossible, fictional element, it’s safe to use uranium as a scientific starting point for theorizing because it’s naturally occurring, stable enough to last more than a few seconds, and, presumably, findable anywhere in the known universe.

A peanut-sized lump of uranium can produce roughly the same amount of energy as 600 pounds of coal. That same peanut-sized lump would approximately be 10cm cubed. That lump alone would weigh 20 kilograms (or around 44 lbs).

Sound heavy? That’s only the beginning. Shielding the wielder from radioactive exposure so that they don’t immediately get cancer would also be a serious concern. Coincidentally, one of the few effective shields against uranium is depleted uranium — which weighs nearly just as much.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
No wonder everyone in Warhammer 40,000 is buff as f*ck. (Games Workshop)

3. The heat after each shot

Now that we’ve explained the fuels and costs involved, let’s break down what a plasma blaster is actually doing. Plasma is considered the fourth state of matter; a substance that is superheated past the point of being a solid, liquid, or gas. If all the kinks were worked out and a power supply could heat up whatever projectile is being fired, it would also need a barrel and firing chamber durable enough to withstand the heat.

A good candidate for the round being fired is cesium because it has the lowest ionization energy and turns to plasma somewhere between 1100 and 1900 degrees Kelvin. The most common element with a higher melting point that would be suitable for weapons manufacturing is boron. Using these elements could ensure the weapon doesn’t liquefy upon pulling the trigger, but the person actually firing the weapon would be undoubtedly toasted.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
And yet everyone still puts their face up to the weapon like it was a firearm from our world. (Bethesda Studios)

2. The speed of the shot

“Laser” weapons used in most sci-fi films are slow, roughly 78 mph according to Wired.  Keep in mind, the muzzle velocity of an M4 carbine is 2970 feet per second — or 2025 mph. Projecting a round by igniting gunpowder simply wouldn’t work with plasma weaponry. Logically speaking, the best way to quickly send plasma down range would be with something like a magnetic rail gun.

The high-energy output needed to superheat cesium would also need to electromagnetize the boron barrel to fire the round. That being said, heat has a demagnetizing effect on all metals. So, even if some futuristic civilization figured out how to heat a cesium round to near 1100 degrees Kelvin without losing magnetism, it’d be damn hard to get the round going 78 mph. In reality, given the length of a typical rifle’s barrel, by the time the round emerged, it’d move at roughly the same speed of a slow-pitched baseball.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
But to be fair, if that superheated cesium plasma round did hit something, it’d be a goner. (TriStar Pictures’ Elysium)

1. Sustained fire

Now let’s summarize all of this into what it’d mean for a futuristic door-kicker.

The weapon would be far too front-heavy to accurately raise into a firing position. The uranium-powered battery would need to be swapped out on a very regular basis (which are also heavy). The time it would take to superheat a cesium round to the point of becoming plasma would be far too long. The slow-moving round fired out of implausible railgun would be far too inaccurate to be used reliably.

All of this brings us to our final point: the second shot. On the bright side, there would be little backward recoil, much like with conventional firearms. The second round would also require much less charging time. But the heat generated from the first round would brittle the barrel and make holding the weapon impossible any — let alone fire like a machine gun.

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I
So maybe cut stormtroopers a little slack. It’s not them — their weapons just suck. (Disney)

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The Air Force tried plucking soldiers off the ground at 125 mph during WWII

One of the most insane rollercoaster rides of World War II consisted of an airplane snatching a soldier off the ground and taking him from zero to 125 mph in seconds.


In July 1943, the Army Air Force decided it needed a way to pick up downed pilots. After all, this was long before helicopters and the only way to get home was with ground troops. The idea they came up with was a modification to a mail pickup system, where a plane could fly low and slow and pick stuff up off the ground using steel cable.

According to the CIA, the service did initial tests picking up weighted containers, which accelerated over 17 g’s — not exactly survivable for a human being. With modifications, this was brought down to 7 g’s, although the first live test (using a sheep) failed after the harness twisted and strangled the poor unsuspecting animal.

Luckily, the Army had crazy paratroopers in its midst that volunteered (or were voluntold, it is the Army after all) to give it a whirl. The first was named Lt. Alex Doster. The CIA writes:

Lt. Alex Doster, a paratrooper, volunteered for the first human pickup, made on 5 September 1943. After a Stinson engaged the transfer rope at 125 mph, Doster was first yanked vertically off the ground, then soared off behind the aircraft. It took less than three minutes to retrieve him.

The Air Force continued to improve the system, even developing a package containing telescoping poles, transfer line, and harness that could be dropped by air. The first operational use of the system came in February 1944, when a C-47 snagged a glider in a remote location in Burma and returned it to India. Although the Air Force never used it to pick up individuals, the British apparently did use it to retrieve agents.

The system evolved into the Skyhook system, a joint venture between the Air Force and the CIA.

Check out this video of some of the tests:

NOW: This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

MIGHTY CULTURE

Failing Forward

Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.

They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.


In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.

DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.

Failing Forward: Dr. Will Roper

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He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.

This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.

Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.

This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.

However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.

He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.

“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

These Air Force ‘rods from God’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.


During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet

The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.

That’s how Project Thor came to be.

Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.

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A concept design of Project Thor.

The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.

It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.

One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.

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Like lawn darts, but with global repercussions.

These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).

The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.

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A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 5th

Nothing beats the lazy Fridays of a four-day weekend – like today! Everyone probably did something patriotic for Independence Day. Whether it was seeing the fireworks with the family or getting roaring drunk in the barracks with the guys, we all did something extravagant yesterday.

And now today’s a day where nothing really happens after a big holiday. Now it’s time to just recoup and recover from the hangover by sitting on our collective asses with video games, movies, or whatever on a regular weekday… Only to do it all over again the moment your buddy calls you up or knocks on your barracks’ room door.


So here’s to sitting on our collective asses! Enjoy some memes. You earned it!

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Call for Fire)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Not CID)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Private News Network)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How ‘having guts’ actually meant being an able US troop

These days, having the guts to do something just means someone is brave enough to take on what seems to be an overwhelming undertaking. Any herculean task could require guts: quitting a job, suing city hall, or voting third party could all require a gut check by today’s standards. In days past, however, a gut check was only required by the soldiers who were about to fight in combat.


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For the record, it still is.

 

Armies in the days of yore – before the 20th Century – faced very different problems than the ones deployed American troops face today. Where we have been known to wince every time we see a runner missing his reflective belt or wonder why I always get the goddamned vegetarian MRE, the Army of the pre-World War I days was more worried about things like clean drinking water, cholera, and dysentery.

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It’s amazing how they can smile even when the stupid chow hall is out of Diet Coke again

 

In days gone by, if someone asked a soldier if they had the guts to fight the coming day or the next day, it wasn’t just an affirmation of macho willpower, it was a real question of a soldier’s ability to maintain his position and discipline in the ranks instead of running off to the latrine every ten minutes to evacuate his bowels.

The asker’s “gut check” was real – and literal – checking to see if his comrade in arms was suffering from diarrhea or a similar illness of the bowels that would keep him from performing at the front lines. Maintaining the integrity of certain infantry formations used to be integral to the survival of the whole unit.

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“Jesus, what is that smell, Kenneth?”

 

At the time of the U.S. Civil War, microbes were only just being accepted as cause for disease. In that war, 620,000 men were killed, but disease actually killed two-thirds of those men. A single illness such as measles could wipe out entire units. Battlefield sanitation was the order of the day, but if Civil War troops chose to ignore an order, that would be the one. Latrines were dug near camps, wells, and rivers as horse and mule entrails and manure permeated their camps.

As a result, dysentery was the single greatest killer of Civil War soldiers. Having the guts to fight only meant you were one of very few troops not suffering from the trots.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Listen to eerie audio of the first recorded ‘marsquake’

NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, 2019, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”


The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

First Likely Marsquake Heard by NASA’s InSight

www.youtube.com

“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon. Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation. NASA currently is planning to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

InSight’s seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet’s surface on Dec. 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133). Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.

Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team.

“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

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This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes – in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress. This stress builds over time, until it is strong enough to break the crust, causing a quake.

Detecting these tiny quakes required a huge feat of engineering. On Earth, high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather. InSight’s instrument has several ingenious insulating barriers, including a cover built by JPL called the Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect it from the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds.

SEIS has surpassed the team’s expectations in terms of its sensitivity. The instrument was provided for InSight by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), while these first seismic events were identified by InSight’s Marsquake Service team, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

“We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Listen to audio of this likely marsquake at: https://youtu.be/DLBP-5KoSCc

For more information about InSight, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/insight

For more information about the agency’s Moon to Mars activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a US defense test successfully shoot down a missile

A credible way to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles has been a cornerstone of American defense thinking since the early days of the Cold War. With renewed ballistic missile threats from China and North Korea, the need for a reliable way to intercept incoming ballistic missiles on their way to the US mainland was renewed.

But the most recent test shows more promise for a new interception system than at any time in U.S. military history, with the system successfully intercepting an incoming test ICBM as it was designed to do.


The test missile was an ICBM launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 4,000 miles away from the United States. The interceptor missiles were launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base via an underground missile silo. This test was a “salvo” test, which means multiple missiles were fired at the same incoming missile to increase the chances of destroying it.

“The system worked exactly as it was designed to do,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency. The test result “demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”

But not everyone agrees.

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In this photo provided by the Missile Defense Agency, the lead ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a “salvo” engagement test of an unarmed missile target Monday, March 25, 2019. In the first test of its kind, the Pentagon on Monday carried out the “salvo” intercept of an unarmed missile soaring over the Pacific, using two interceptor missiles launched from underground silos in southern California.

(Missile Defense Agency)

The Union of Concerned Scientists says the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that launched the test is more akin to “hitting a bullet with a bullet,” and the system is hugely expensive, ineffective, and offers no proven capability to protect the United States. It goes on to note the GMD in its current state was fielded before any tests were conducted on the system and two-thirds of its intercepts fail. The Union calls the system wasteful and calls on the government to figure out another strategy for missile defense.

The Pentagon will spend .4 billion on missile defense, including the GMD, in the year 2020.

“Success is better than failure, but because of the secrecy I have no idea how high the bar was set,” said Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “How realistic was the test? The Pentagon had a very long way to go to demonstrate the system works in a real-world situation.”

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A ballistic missile test-fired from Meck Island in the Kwajalein Atoll.

The United States also uses space-based and sea-based missiles in its missile defense network. These systems were also used to track the successful test intercept.

“This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone,” Lt. Gen. Greaves said in a released statement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Microsoft takes sides in the ongoing tech battle over military

On Oct. 26, 2018, Microsoft said it plans to sell artificial intelligence and any other advanced technologies needed to the military and intelligence agencies to strengthen defense, the New York Times reported.

Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Oct 25, 2018, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.


“Microsoft was born in the United States, is headquartered in the United States, and has grown up with all the benefits that have long come from being in this country,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was quoted in the report as saying.

The debate about military AI among US tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies.

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The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies’ involvement in military and federal law enforcement work. For example, thousands of employees signed a petition, and some even resigned, after revelations that Google had sold artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to analyze drone footage.

Others, such as Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have shown their support for the U.S. military. In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, “I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking.”

Likewise, Amazon is seen as the forerunner for winning a cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Google recently dropped out of that same bid, saying it would conflict with corporate values. As for Microsoft, it’s also seen as a strong contender for that contract.

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

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