NASA and Sikorsky made the world's craziest-ever helicopter - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

The S-72 from the 1970s can be seen as a sort of spiritual predecessor to today’s Future Vertical Lift program. It was all about creating a vehicle that could take off and land vertically like a normal helicopter but could also fly fast and far like a plane. But while the FVL’s top contenders are logical new versions of existing aircraft, the S-72 Rotor Systems Research Aircraft was a plane and a helicopter duct-taped together and filled with explosives.


Sikorsky S-72 Helicopter (RSRA) Rotor Systems Research Aircraft

www.youtube.com

Sounds fun, right?

The RSRA was a joint effort by the Army and NASA, and the Sikorsky Aircraft company was the primary developer. Sikorsky is the company behind the new SB-1 Defiant, and they’ve long searched to push the envelope when it comes to helicopter design.

You can actually see some elements of the SB-1 Defiant in the S-72. The S-72 was basically another Sikorsky helicopter, the S-67, with wings and turbofans added. It packed two TF34 engines, the same things that keep the A-10 in the air. Strapped to an S-72 with stubby wings, these engines could send the aircraft through the sky at 345 mph.

But the S-72 was also a helicopter with five rotor blades, so it could take off and land vertically. These blades were not propelled by the TF34s, though. Nope, those were powered by the original two T-58 turboshafts from the S-67.

But that’s a lot of engines to strap to one small aircraft. What if something goes wrong? What if you need to suddenly escape?

Well, that’s where your ejector seats come in. Yup, you could rocket yourself out of this bad boy in an explosive chair. And if you’re thinking, “Wait, didn’t you just say there are five rotor blades spinning above the pilots?” Then, congratulations on paying that much attention! But also, don’t worry, because Sikorsky strapped explosives to those rotor blades, and they would blow off before the pilots flew out.

It’s all pretty cool, if not exactly practical. The program eventually fell apart for the normal reasons. It was simply too expensive and technologically advanced for its time. It did fly multiple times, but always in either a full helicopter configuration or full jet configuration with the rotor blade removed. It never flew at 345 mph with that rotor blade flapping in the wind.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

The S-72 configured for the X-Wing program.

(NASA)

Without getting too heavy into the physics in an article written for you to read on the bus or in bed or whatever, there’s a very real reason that high-speed flight with rotor blades spinning up top is tough. Helicopters have what are called advancing and retreating blades. The advancing blade is the one moving in the same direction as the aircraft, and the retreating blade is the one spinning to the rear.

The advancing blade would generate a lot more lift because it’s moving so much faster through the air, and this effect is increased the faster the helicopter is flying. Engineers have a few ways of getting around this problem, but it gets trickier the faster the helicopter flies. That’s part of why Chinooks top out at about 200 mph in level flight. So, a helicopter flying 345 mph would face a huge problem with “dissymmetry of lift.”

The S-72’s method around this was a system that would stop the blades and hold them in place as part of the X-Wing concept. Basically, the aircraft would’ve gotten a new rotor blade with four large blades instead of its normal five. When the aircraft was flying as a jet, the rotor blades would be locked in position and would generate lift like traditional wings. One S-72 was modified as the X-Wing version, but it never flew.

Meanwhile, if the SB-1 Defiant lives up to its design promises, Sikorsky thinks it will fly at almost 290 mph. If so, it will be the fastest production helicopter and still be 55 mph slower than the S-72 that preceded it.

MIGHTY MOVIES

US Navy Super Hornets ‘buzz the tower’ during filming for ‘Top Gun’

Two F/A-18 Super Hornets tore past an air traffic control tower at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada June 2109 during filming for the “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to the classic 1980s fighter jet flick.

Kyle Fleming, who captured the spectacular flyby on video, told The Aviationist that it was necessary to recreate the iconic “buzz the tower” scene from the first “Top Gun” film.


Here’s the scene from the 1986 film starring Tom Cruise, who will reappear in the sequel.

Top Gun: ‘It’s Time to Buzz the Tower’

www.youtube.com

A public affairs spokesman for NAS Fallon confirmed to Business Insider that Paramount Pictures was out at the air base from June 10 through June 28, 2019, filming air operations using both in-jet and external cameras.

The spokesman explained that while he say what they were doing, he couldn’t detail how the footage would be used in the film. Paramount Pictures media relations division could not be reached for comment.

Production of the new film started in 2018.

The sequel scheduled for release summer 2020 will see Cruise again play the role of hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, now a Navy captain who is expected to be mentoring a new class of pilots, including the son of his deceased naval flight officer Lt. j.g. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These aircraft took part in the strike on Syria

The recent aerial bombardment of Syrian chemical weapons production facilities was one of epic proportions, featuring aircraft and warships from three countries — namely France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Reminiscent of the large Alpha strike flights of the Vietnam War, this attack formation consisted of dozens of aircraft, each with their own roles and objectives. From bombers to reconnaissance jets, supersonic high-performance fighters, and a 50-year-old electronic attack plane, the strike package employed a diverse array of aircraft to achieve overall success.


These are the aircraft that were involved in the attack:

Fighters

Fighter aircraft from the US, UK, and France were absolutely integral in making the entire strike mission a success. American F-22 Raptors, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and F-15C Eagles from U.S. Air Forces in Europe covered the attack force alongside British Eurofighter Typhoons and French Mirage 2000s. Armed with air-to-air missiles, they loitered nearby, waiting patiently to deal with any aerial threats.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off for a Beverly Bulldog 14-01 sortie Nov. 19, 2013, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

The British and French aerial strike force consisted of Panavia Tornado supersonic attack jets and Rafale multi-role fighters. Both were armed with the Storm Shadow/SCALP air-launched cruise missile, which has a range of over 600 miles.

Bombers

A small element of B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers were responsible for carrying out the American contribution to the aerial attack mission, using JASSM-ER air-launched missiles. These behemoth aircraft have previously operated in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, supporting troops on the ground with devastating close air support.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A B-1B Lancer aircraft takes off from an airbase in Qatar.
(US Air Force)

Built during the Cold War as a way for the US Air Force to avoid air defenses and deliver nuclear weapons to their targets, the Lancer, more affectionately known as the ‘Bone,” eventually moved out of its nuclear attack role as the Soviet Union fell. Today, it carries targeting pods and scores of conventional, “smart” munitions, flying as an on-call bomb truck for ground units.

The Bone used JASSM-A missiles in the attacks.

Electronic Attack

By far, one of the most interesting additions to the strike force was a sole EA-6B Prowler, a four-seater electronic attack jet flown exclusively by the Marine Corps. The Prowler originally entered service with the US Navy and Marines in the early 1970s, serving as anti-radar “jammers.” The Marines plan on operating the Prowler into 2019, when they’ll retire them in favor of the electronic warfare capabilities of the F-35 Lightning II.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A VAQ-141 EA-6B Prowler
(Jerry Gunner)

During the strike mission, the Prowler accompanied the American attack force as a guardian of sorts, preventing them from being targeted by Syrian (and potentially Russian) air defense radars mated to surface-to-air missiles. Marine Prowlers have been previously deployed to the Syrian theater to conduct similar protection-type missions.

AWACS

France sent a pair of E-3F Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) jets from Avord Air Base to the area, where they constantly scanned and monitored the skies for nearby Russian, Syrian, and civilian aircraft.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A US Air Force E-3 Sentry in-flight
(US Air Force)

The Sentry, produced by Boeing, began service with the US Air Force in the early 1970s as a replacement for older Warning Star aircraft. Essentially flying radar pickets, these aircraft come with a massive rotating radar dome affixed above the fuselage and a whole suite of sensors and communications gear that allows it to feed information to friendly aircraft operating nearby.

Tankers

The aerial refueling community in the US has a saying, “nobody kicks ass without tanker gas!” This was certainly true during the Syrian strike mission. American and French KC-135R and C-135FR Stratotankers were on-station, a safe distance away from the action, ready to refuel allied aircraft as needed.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A 100 ARW KC-135 landing at RAF Mildenhall, UK
(US Air Force)

Built by Boeing and operating off the same platform as the E-3 Sentry, the KC-135 has flown for the USAF since the late 1950s and will likely remain in service for decades to come. This legendary workhorse has seen action from Vietnam to Operation Desert Storm and still actively participates in coalition operations against ISIS today in the Middle East.

Reconnaissance

In the hours before the attack, a single RQ-4 Global Hawk drone was briefly tracked flying near Syria and Lebanon, according to David Cenciotti of The Aviationist. Additionally, an RC-135V Rivet Joint aircraft was also operating in the area at the time, likely generating data and gathering information in advance of the strike mission.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
An RC-135V Rivet Joint takes off on mission.
(US Air Force)

Global Hawks, aptly named for their jaw-dropping endurance and range, have flown with the US Air Force for the past 17 years, functioning as a versatile surveillance platform over combat zones across the Middle East. The Rivet Joint, on the other hand, is a manned signals intelligence aircraft used for reconnaissance purposes on classified missions across the world.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Best battle proven tricks to win a ‘sniper duel’

Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.

“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”


Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.

We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.

“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.

“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.

When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.

“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.

Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.

But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)

The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.

“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”

Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.

According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

These fights could easily be long and drawn out.

“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.

And, the waiting is tough.

“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”

“It’s a cool story later,” he added.

No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.

“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US got fighters to the front during WWII

These days, when the United States wants to deploy fighters to an operating theater, the logistics are actually very simple. The fighters take off, they refuel in midair, and then they land at an operating base. They may make some overnight stops, but they fly their way in, thanks to the impressive refueling capabilities of the 414 KC-135s and 59 KC-10s on inventory.


 

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
F-16s and other modern fighters simply fly to their operating theaters, thanks to aerial refueling, but World War II fighters didn’t have that luxury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo Sr.)

But it wasn’t always so simple, especially back during World War II. At that point, mid-air refueling had been done as a stunt, but there were no real practical applications. Most of the Army Air Force’s fighters back then didn’t have the range to regularly make non-stop flights. There were some notable exceptions, however. Bombers and the P-38 Lightning could usually make the flights across the Atlantic, typically via Greenland and Iceland.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
This is how fighters arrived to the front before practical aerial refueling: By ship, in this case, USS Cape Esperance (CVE 88) is hauling F-86 Sabres to Korea. (USAF photo)

Most other fighters, including the P-51, couldn’t make the journey. So, here’s what they did instead. After the planes were built, assembled, and quality checked, the next step was to disassemble them and crate them. The crated planes would then be loaded onto a ship and taken to a port near the front lines. There, the planes were taken to a base, removed from the crates, and re-assembled. After yet another quality check, planes were ready to fly.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
One of the risks of having a ship carry planes: Here USS Langley (AV 3, ex-CV 1) is being scuttled after she was attacked while ferrying P-40s to the Dutch East Indies. (US Navy photo)

 

Now, this could be a problem. You see, if the ship got attacked, the planes on board could be damaged. Or worse, the ship could be sunk. America’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (AV 3) was sunk after it was used as an aircraft ferry. Luckily, it’s a much smoother operation today. 

 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The latest MOH Recipient’s citation is immortalized as a graphic novel

“Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.

Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.


The mission which was a joint operation between the United States Special Forces and the Kurdish Special Forces was chaotic from the start. Usually when it comes to military awards, we read the citation and might get a book later which goes into more detail. Sometimes, as in the case of Black Hawk Down, we get a movie. But the United States Army decided to give us an amazing visual on the mission via graphic illustrations.

That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.

On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.

Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.

There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.

The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.

Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.

Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.

Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.

Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.

Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.

He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.

By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.

He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.

He had to make sure no one was left behind.

Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”

70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just discovered what Uranus smells like

Even after decades of observations and a visit by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, Uranus held on to one critical secret — the composition of its clouds. Now, one of the key components of the planet’s clouds has finally been verified.

A global research team that includes Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has spectroscopically dissected the infrared light from Uranus captured by the 26.25-foot (8-meter) Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. They found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people avoid, in Uranus’ cloud tops. The long-sought evidence was published in the April 23, 2018, issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.


The detection of hydrogen sulfide high in Uranus’ cloud deck (and presumably Neptune’s) is a striking difference from the gas giant planets located closer to the Sun — Jupiter and Saturn — where ammonia is observed above the clouds, but no hydrogen sulfide. These differences in atmospheric composition shed light on questions about the planets’ formation and history.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
Jupiter,u00a0Saturn,u00a0Uranus, andu00a0Neptune.

“We’ve strongly suspected that hydrogen sulfide gas was influencing the millimeter and radio spectrum of Uranus for some time, but we were unable to attribute the absorption needed to identify it positively. Now, that part of the puzzle is falling into place as well,” Orton said.

The Gemini data, obtained with the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS), sampled reflected sunlight from a region immediately above the main visible cloud layer in Uranus’ atmosphere.

“While the lines we were trying to detect were just barely there, we were able to detect them unambiguously thanks to the sensitivity of NIFS on Gemini, combined with the exquisite conditions on Mauna Kea,” said lead author Patrick Irwin of the University of Oxford, U.K.

No worries, though, that the odor of hydrogen sulfide would overtake human senses. According to Irwin, “Suffocation and exposure in the negative 200 degrees Celsius [392 degrees Fahrenheit] atmosphere made of mostly hydrogen, helium, and methane would take its toll long before the smell.”

Read more on the news of Uranus’ atmosphere from Gemini Observatory here.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High school students designed this part of the B-2 stealth bomber

The US Air Force’s $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit bombers, a key component of US nuclear deterrence, are protected from “catastrophic” accidents by a $1.25 part designed by a group of high-school students.

Switch covers designed by the Stealth Panthers robotics team at Knob Noster High School are installed in the cockpits of all operational B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Air Force officials told Stars and Stripes.


The B-2 is one of the most advanced bombers in the world, as its low-observable characteristics render the 172-foot-wide bomber almost invisible to radar, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

A B-2 Spirit bomber taxis on a flightline.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Designed with Soviet air-defense systems in mind, the bomber has been serving since the late 1980s. Recently, a handful of B-2 bombers have been training alongside F-22 Raptors in the Pacific, where China has been expanding its military footprint.

But even the best technology can often be improved.

A B-2 stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman made an emergency landing at an airport in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after an in-flight emergency last fall, Air Force Times reported, saying at the time that the incident was under investigation.

Apparently, the emergency was triggered by the accidental flip of a switch, among other unusual malfunctions.

“The B-2 Spirit cockpit is equipped with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology, but is a very cramped space, so something was needed to keep the pilots or other items from bumping into the switches,” Capt. Keenan Kunst told Stars and Stripes.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

A B-2 Spirit bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

There are a series of four switches that are of particular concern. “The consequences could be catastrophic — especially if all four were flipped, in which case, ejection would be the only option,” Kunst told Stars and Stripes. “We recognized the switch posed a certain risk of inadvertent actuation and that we should take action to minimize this risk — no matter how small.”

And that’s where a handful of Missouri high schoolers had the answer to this particular problem.

Base leaders already had an established relationship the school, and some of the pilots had been mentoring members of the robotics team. Base personnel presented the issue to the students, and they began developing a solution. Working with pilots in a B-2 simulator, they were able to design and test the suitable switch cover.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why it’s raining salt in the former Soviet Union

Large parts of western Uzbekistan and northern Turkmenistan are recovering from a severe salt storm that has damaged agriculture and livestock herds.

The three-day storm hit Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions, as well as Turkmenistan’s Dashoguz Province, beginning on May 26, 2018.


The salt — lifted from dried-out former parts of the Aral Sea — left a white dust on farmers’ fields and fruit trees that is expected to ruin many crops.

The storm also caused flights at the Urgench airport to be canceled, made driving hazardous, and caused breathing difficulties for many people.

Particularly hard hit by the storm, which reached speeds of more than 20 meters per second, were the Uzbek regions of Khorezm, Navoi, and Bukhara.

Remnants of the storm were also reported as far south as Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Temirbek Bobo, 80, told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that it was the first time he had seen such a harsh storm.

“I’ve seen the wind bring sand before, but this was the first time I saw salt. This event can be called a catastrophe,” said Bobo, who lives in the Takhiatash district of Karakalpakstan. “The whole day there was nothing but salt rain [coming down]. The sun was not visible.”

He added: “Nature began to take revenge on us for [what we have done] to the Aral Sea.”

A representative of the Karakalpakstan’s Council of Ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the council had not received any instructions regarding the situation, but suggested that the region’s Agricultural Ministry may have.

RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service was unable to reach Karakalpakstan’s Agricultural Ministry for comment.

Salt storms are common in areas near the Aral Sea, but this one carried salt over a much wider area.

Once one of the four largest seas on Earth, intensive irrigation projects set up by the Soviets in the 1960s led to its desiccation.

The runoff from nearby agricultural fields has polluted the remaining parts of the Aral Sea with pesticides and fertilizers, which have crystallized with the salt.

Inhalation of the salt can cause severe throat and lung problems. The salt also can poison farmers’ produce and cause chemical damage to buildings.


This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is a black box from the Ethiopian Airlines crash

Crash investigators released the first picture of the black boxes from Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302. The photo, of the Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner’s mangled flight data recorder, was published by the French government on March 14, 2019.

Flight ET302’s black boxes, a colloquial term used to describe an aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR), were recovered on March 11, 2019.

The recorders could provide investigators with key clues that may reveal the cause of the crash and ultimately solve the mystery of what’s wrong with the Boeing 737 Max.


With US National Transportation Safety Board assisting in the investigation of the Renton, Washington-built plane, it was thought the black boxes would be sent to the US.

Instead, Ethiopian authorities handed over the recorders to the BEA, France’s well-respected aviation investigation agency.

FAA grounds Boeing 737 Max jets after Ethiopian Airlines crash

www.youtube.com

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, modern aircraft FDRs are required by law to records at least eight key parameters including time, altitude, airspeed, and the plane’s attitude. However, more advanced recorders can monitors more than 1,000 parameters.

Older units used magnetic tape to record data, however, modern FDRs use digital technology that can record as much as 25 hours.

The cockpit voice recorder does just that. It records what’s going on in the cockpit including radio transmissions, background noise, alarms, pilot’s voices, and engine noises for as long as two hours.

Both recorders are stored in reinforced shells that are designed to survive 30 minutes in 2000-degree Fahrenheit heat and be submerged in 20,000 feet of water.

On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. The incident, which killed all 157 passengers and crew on board, marked the second nearly-brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner to crash in four months. Lion Air Flight JT610 crashed after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia on Oct. 28, 2019.

Regulatory agencies and airlines in the more than 50 countries around the world including the US, have grounded the airliners. The Boeing 737 Max entered service in 2017. There are currently 371 of the jets in operation.

Featured image: Twitter/BEA

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Is Bran Stark the ultimate skater?

We are more than halfway through the final season of Game of Thrones and with only two episodes left, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered. But while season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks” established the clear endgame for the beloved show, it did ignore what is arguably largest remaining questions in all of Westeros: What is the point of Bran Stark? Seriously, for eight seasons we have been watching this kid learn to harness magical powers only for none of it to have any payoff and if he doesn’t start doing something useful ASAP, he may turn out to be the most pointless character on a beloved TV show since Cousin Oliver managed to ruin The Brady Bunch.

Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”


“The Last of the Starks” was a classic “setting the table” episode of Game of Thrones, as the fourth episode of season 8 allowed characters and viewers paused to briefly look back on what just happened (Arya fucking up the Night King) while also establishing the conflicts that will surely define the remaining two episodes. Dany struggled with her Mad Queen impulses while her two most trusted advisors discussed the merits of committing treason. Cersei told Euron she was pregnant with their baby approximately 48 hours after they fucked and the steampunk pirate seems dumb enough to believe it, even with Tyrion accidentally showing the obvious holes in the timeline. And Jaime finally had sex with someone he wasn’t related to before breaking her heart and heading south to play a high-stakes game of Fuck, Marry, Kill with his twin sister.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

Daenerys Targaryen.

But, for a moment, let’s forget about all the heavy-handed foreshadowing and the baffling logistics of travel in Westeros to focus on Bran. More specifically, let’s focus on the sincere question of whether or not Bran is actually going to do anything. Since he was pushed out of the Winterfell Tower by Jaime in the first episode, the last remaining son of Ned Stark has been on a unique journey, mostly avoiding the politics and wars of the realm in favor of becoming the Three-Eyed Raven by watching memories whilst sitting in a tree. And once he finally became the Three-Eyed Raven, he was suddenly an emotionless, all-knowing demigod whose only real weakness was lacking social decorum.

Curb Your Game of Thrones – Jaime reunites with Bran

www.youtube.com

Of course, Bran’s exact powers and purpose remained a mystery to viewers and characters alike, leading to a wide array of internet speculation about Bran’s unspecified motivation. Many have pointed to him becoming the true hero of the show, while others have said he is Westeros’ Gepetto, secretly pulling all of the strings of the less enlightened. Many insisted that he was secretly the Night King. Others have said that he only defeated the Night King because he’s actually the show’s true villain. Some people still think he’s going to be responsible for Dany becoming the Mad Queen while also making her father the Mad King.

Point is, there were a lot of theories and while it was never really clear what role Bran had to play in the Game of Thrones, it seemed obvious that whatever he was going to do was going to be pretty massive. After all, the entire reason the Night King was heading south was to kill Bran, so it stood to reason that Bran was going to have some epic trick up his sleeve to undo his would-be killer. However, Bran ended up playing virtually no part in taking down his longtime rival, as Arya was the one who delivered the final blow.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
Giphy

Bran’s lack of involvement or scheming in the battle left many fans confused and underwhelmed. But Game of Thrones has long been a show that specialized in undermining and subverting expectations, so while Bran was essentially a glorified bench-warmer in the Battle of Winterfell, perhaps he would reveal his true masterplan in the Battle for King’s Landing. Except, with only two episodes left, none of this has actually happened and we are quickly running out of time. As Jon and Dany prepare to face-off against Euron and Cersei, Bran continues to speak in haikus and not actually contribute in any meaningful way. And, at this point, it’s hard to even imagine what he could do because we still don’t really know what Bran’s whole deal is.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The B-36: The plane ‘so good it never dropped a bomb in anger’

There was a plane designed during World War II and completed just after cessation of hostilities that served for 13 years but was never called upon to fly an operational mission: the B-36. According to some, this is a sign that it was so successful at deterrence that no foreign adversary wanted to tussle with it. But it’s not that clear cut.


The first B-36A sits next to a B-50 SuperFortress at Carswell Air Force Base, New Mexico.
(U.S. Air Force)

The B-36 Peacemaker was massive, weighing in at 278,000 pounds without bombs or fuel, but could tip the scales at 410,000 pounds when it had its 86,000 pounds of bombs and a full fuel load. And those 86,000 pounds of bombs could be made up of conventional or nuclear weapons.

The design phase for the aircraft began in 1941 when American leaders asked for a plane that could take off in the states, fly into Germany and bomb Berlin, and then fly back home. But the first B-36 prototype rolled out of a hangar six days after the Japanese forces surrendered, ending World War II. Its maiden flight didn’t take place until August 8, 1946, almost a year after the end of the war.

The final design had a wing span of 230 feet and featured six engines and propellers. These propellers were mounted on the back of the wing, pushing the aircraft through the sky instead of pulling it. At that point in history, it was one of the largest planes to ever fly.

The U.S. built 384 of them and the plane ushered in the era of strategic bombing deterrence, the idea that you could threaten an enemy with such wholesale destruction that they would instead opt to just not fight you. And, while it can’t be directly tied to this one aircraft, the B-36 did fly over a period of tense peace. It never once dropped a bomb in anger, possibly because it could carry large nuclear bombs and it could fly from Maine to Leningrad and back without refueling.

But it did drop bombs — both in training exercises and on accident. In February, 1950, a B-36 crew was forced to jettison their nuclear bomb near British Columbia after flames were sighted in three of their engines. There is a chance that the weapon was a dumb bomb used for practice runs, but it was unarmed either way.

In 1957, a B-36 crew accidentally dropped their Mark 17 nuclear bomb near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conventional explosives in the weapon did explode, but the nuclear material, thankfully, did not.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
The NB-36 with a nuclear reactor onboard flies near a B-50 bomber. The NB-36 was a testbed plane created to one-day fly using nuclear power, but it used conventional fuel for all of its 47 flights.
(U.S. Air Force)

But the craziest part of the B-36’s career with nuclear material arguably came during planned experiments rather than an accident in flight. In 1942, one of the Manhattan Program scientists spitballed the idea of a nuclear-powered aircraft, one with a nuclear reactor instead of huge gas tanks.

Over the following 16 years, the Army and then the Air Force devoted increasing amounts of time and money to studying and then experimenting with the concept. In 1951, they selected the B-36 Peacemaker, the only aircraft large enough to hold the test reactor and the necessary cockpit modifications to protect the crew.

One B-36 was modified into the NB-36, the nuclear-powered bomber. While it flew 47 test flights and had a powered reactor for most of them, it only ever flew using conventional fuel as scientists and engineers studied how the reactor worked in flight. Advances in conventional aircraft design made a nuclear-powered bomber largely irrelevant, and the program was shelved in 1958.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A YRF-84F fighter in flight with its parent B-36 Peacemaker.
(U.S. Air Force)

The bomber was big enough and strong enough to take part in the short-lived “parasitic fighter” concept wherein a massive bomber could take a fighter escort with it into combat.

The larger plane would head towards its target and, if it was spotted by enemy radar or fighters, would release a fighter from its belly. The fighter pilot would engage the enemy forces, breaking them up or destroying them before returning to its parent bomber.

The B-36 would then receive the fighter into its belly again and continue toward the target. The advent of mid-air refueling made the concept obsolete, and it also ended the necessity of larger bombers with larger fuel tanks like the B-36. After all, a smaller bomber with more conservative tanks could take off, top up on fuel just outside of the enemy air defense ring, and then pierce the airspace.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A B-47B takes off using rockets to assist in generating the necessary thrust.
(U.S. Air Force)

So, the B-36 had a long and fairly storied career without once going on an operational mission against an enemy force. It gets a lot of credit for that, but it’s not actually the only aircraft to carry that distinction. The B-47 Stratojet and the B-58 Hustler were jet-powered aircraft with a similar mission to the piston-powered B-36.

They were all designed to fly from U.S. bases, drop big bomb loads, and then fly home. They were all nuclear-capable and they all went their entire careers without dropping a bomb on an enemy — but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean that they were or weren’t successful bombers.

While their strategic deterrence mission was important, they were unsuitable for a conventional bombing mission because they all had handling or speed issues that made leaders worried they would be too susceptible to being shot down. So, it’s not really that they were too good to need to drop bombs, it’s that they were too specialized for a specific deterrence to complete the operational missions.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off during exercise Trojan Footprint at RAF Fairford, England, June 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

The modern B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers, on the other hand, have both served as nuclear-deterrent bombers but had the handling, speed, and stealth necessary to survive while dropping bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In fact, the U.S. will likely turn to these modern successors to the B-36 in case of war with China, Russia or North Korean, not for their nuclear payloads but for their value at dropping conventional bombs (the B-1 has been modified to remove its nuclear capability to comply with treaties).

So, toast the success of the B-36 and its peers — but don’t forget the modern bombers that rose above the forebears.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This airman found a way to combine creative talent with military service

Fresh off of an assignment, he tentatively made his way through a checklist. With a friendly demeanor and calming presence he made his way to visit his colleagues, as old friends do. His intricately inked arms revealed stories untold with each tattoo beneath his neatly rolled uniform sleeves. With hazel eyes, he processed each story as he listened to its thoughts and goals.

Muralist, painter, street artist, and 315th Airlift Wing Reservist, Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, combat photojournalist with the 4th Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, used his creative talent and public affairs training to win 2018 Air Force Photographer of the Year and first place in the 2018 Military Visual Awards portrait category.


“On a daily basis we are involved with creativity, adventure and challenge,” Lundborg said.

At a young age, Lundborg began developing his talent through murals and street art that at times brought a little trouble, so he turned to boxing as a creative outlet. These two outlets led him to a crossroads when it came time to choose between a career in art or fighting. Lundborg found that way through the Air Force.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, paints a mural at Giphy’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles, April 10, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

“Corban is tenacious,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Herrick, 4th CTCS combat photojournalism superintendent. “He wants to grow and find a way to expand his capabilities and contributions.”

Lundborg’s active duty Air Force career in logistics led him to Korea, where he was able to reignite his dream to be a full-time artist through an apprenticeship at a local tattoo parlor there. There his creativity flourished.

Lundborg said, “I find peace and fulfillment in creativity.”

Soon after returning to the states, Lundborg was able to combine his passion for art through his military career at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Joint Air Reserve Station, Minnesota, as a photojournalist.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, prepares the cameras before a video production shoot for the Air Force Reserve mission video at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 7, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

Lundborg is extremely talented, selfless and quite the servant-leader, Herrick said.

In Minneapolis, Lundborg reached out to his community as an educator to inner city teens.

“The classroom was my new-found joy and the objective of my class was to engage, inspire and change each student’s life,” Lundborg said. “I aim to help them find their identity and their voice through the arts and pull out the greatness already within them.”

Through various combat camera projects Lundborg found his voice at JB Charleston, where his imagery contributed to every mission accomplished.

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, stands next to a mural he painted on The Smokestack, a popular establishment in Dubuque, Iowa, Sept. 26, 2016.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

“Staff Sgt. Lundborg’s imagery wasn’t just utilized at the tactical and operational levels,” said Maj. Meg Harper, 4th CTCS Flight Commander. “It ended up having strategic impact as well.”

Lundborg’s work often went straight to the four-star commanding general while overseas, Harper said. His talent strengthened the Air Force mission through on-target, high quality photos.

“I consider Lundborg an absolute key to our combat camera mission,” Harper said.

Lundborg brought his talents to the battlefield for a purpose.

“I believe each person’s life is an intelligently placed brushstroke on a large canvas intentionally placed by the creator for a larger purpose,” Lundborg said. “Each day I have really been living a dream”

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information