Necessity is the mother of invention — and war is often the catalyst. Sure, we can look at all of the obvious military advancements that trickled down to the civilian sector, like fixed-winged aircraft, GPS, the microwave, and the can opener, but it’s a little-known fact that a lot of contemporary American foods also got their start on the battlefield.
The doughnut, one of the most American deserts known to man, got its start when troops needed a tactical desert to get their minds off the horrors of WWI.
Looks just like the line at your local Krispy Kreme — some things never change.
During WWI, the Salvation Army actually deployed overseas with the troops, offering a wide variety of support for the troops. This support ranged from preparing home-cooked meals to sending money back home to sewing their uniforms when needed. The organization was entirely independent from the Armed Forces, but they followed units around the battlefield — oftentimes going to the front lines with them.
Two women assigned to assist the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, Ensign Helen Purviance and Ensign Margaret Sheldon, endured the hellish environment of Monte-sur-Soux, France, just as the soldiers did. It rained for thirty days and supplies were running thin. They needed to come up with something — anything — to boost the abysmal morale.
They searched the countryside for ingredients and came back with eggs, milk, yeast, sugar, and a bit of vanilla. Perfect ingredients to make a cake, but that wouldn’t be enough for all the troops. They made some dough, used a wine bottle to work it, and cooked the cake batter on a frying pan in some grease. They served it up — and the soldiers loved it.
Soldiers would gather from all around when they smelled the doughnuts being cooked. It was said that the lines were so long that troops would miss duty or formation because they just wanted a single doughnut. One soldier eventually asked Ensign Purvaince, “can’t you make a doughnut with a hole in it?” She obliged this request by cutting the middle of the doughnut out with an empty condensed milk can and used the rest of the batter for other doughnuts.
Doughnuts quickly spread across the U.S. front and other Salvation Army officers started making them for the troops in their care. It didn’t take long for the women making the sweets to be given the nickname of “doughnut girls” or “doughnut lassies” — despite the numerous other ways in which they aided troops.
So, when National Doughnut Day rolls around on the first Friday of June, know that it’s about more than the glazed treat you used to cheat on your diet this morning. It’s a day in honor of the women who served on the front-lines with the troops, preparing tasty treats in hopes of cheering them up.
To learn more about Doughnut Girls or real meaning behind National Doughnut Day, check out the video below.
China is showcasing its powerful new hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile, which could raise the stakes as tensions flare between China’s military and the US Navy.
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) unveiled the CM-401 short-range anti-ship ballistic missile at Airshow China in Zhuhai, the country’s largest military and commercial aviation exhibition.
“The system is intended for rapid and precision strikes against medium-size ships, naval task forces, and offshore facilities,” a CASIC representative told IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The Chinese state-affiliated Global Times, citing a press release from the company that produced the weapon, reported that the missile can travel at speeds roughly six times the speed of sound.
The speed and unpredictable flight patterns made possible through mid-flight changes to the trajectory make the missile much more difficult, if not impossible, to intercept.
The CM-401s are assumed to fly on a “skip-glide trajectory,” The War Zone reported, citing graphics detailing the capabilities of the new system.
“The weapon has the potential of destroying a hostile vessel with one hit,” the paper reported, citing a Chinese military expert. The CM-401 is believed to include an independent phased array radar in the nose for terminal targeting.
The missile, which has a maximum range of 180 miles, can be launched from a shore-based launcher or from a ship-based launch-canister. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s new Type 055 destroyers could potentially carry the CM-401 missiles, The National Interest reported, although it is possible the vessel will carry a longer-range variant.”The country will possess greater deterrence against hostile sea attacks, especially from large vessels like aircraft carriers,” a military expert told the Global Times.
Other Chinese anti-ship systems include the DF-21D and DF-26 ballistic missiles, as well as the YJ-12 and YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile and a handful of subsonic cruise missiles. The development of a hypersonic strike platform represents a potentially-alarming advancement in stand-off anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) technology, a consistent challenge for the US military.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious drug kingpin of Mexico, has finally arrived in Florence, Colorado. It’s here, at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary where he will spend his life sentence (+30 years, according to a judge).
El Chapo escaped Mexican prisons twice, in 2001 and 2014. However, his stay this time around seems to be much more permanent— this supermax prison is nicknamed “the Alcatraz of the Rockies” and has never had a prisoner escape since its founding in 1994.
The layout of a traditional supermax cell.
El Chapo, 62, arrived at the facility on July 19, two days after his life sentence. He joined other high profile offenders like the “Unabomber,” an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber.
All 400 inmates at the ADX spend 23 hours a day in a soundproofed cell, and then have one heavily supervised hour of “rec” time. Their supervised hour of rec time is observed while both handcuffed and shackled. Phones are banned, and there is an extremely “limited” version of television available (meaning: black and white recreational, religious, and educational programming).
Everything in the cell is made of stone, and is structurally attached to the wall or floor. The bed is made of concrete with a small pad as a mattress, a small concrete stool is molded to the ground, and a couple of small shelves jut out from the wall near their in-cell sink.
The design of every cell is centered around eliminating threats. Some cells have a shower, to further limit contact with guards, but they have a timer to eliminate the threat of flooding. The toilet shuts off if blocked. The sink has no tap.
Inside the Supermax Prison Where El Chapo Will Be Housed
Inmates can earn more daily rec time after a year, depending on their behavior. They don’t remain there forever, the long-term “goal” is a three-year stay, and then a transfer to a less restrictive prison.
However, there is considerable controversy surrounding the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health. In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the prison, citing alleged chronic abuse and a failure to diagnose mental health properly.
The maximum security doors where inmates are confined 23 hours a day.
I spoke with an unnamed corrections officer— to have her speak on the would-be escape attempt that she thwarted in her prison. Her prison is a level 4 (out of 5) and is home to violent prisoners, but none as high profile or as repeatedly violent as the offenders at ADX supermax. This helps give a sense at the futility of an escape plan in a prison that isn’t even as comprehensive as the ADX supermax.
“While walking up to post with no radio, I [saw] an inmate standing in the doorway.” she said, “I observed what appeared to be a water bottle hanging from the roof and when he noticed the look on my face, he took off quickly. I rounded the side of the house (a common term for each individual living complex in a prison) to get a better look, I realized it was a huge braided rope made of sheets, with a weighted water bottle anchored to the end of it. But, it had been caught on razor wire and was dangling.”
“It turned out to be an attempted escape that had gone wrong.” She continued, “There were bags of food and black clothes on top of the house, and a huge foot-long metal rod sharpened to a point hidden underneath the rope.” And that was a level 4.
TEL AVIV — At the end of the day, Israel’s greatest weapon to fight its enemies is people who serve in the IDF. This tiny country had to fight for its survival against all its neighbors on three separate occasions.
But even when they fought for independence using a patchwork force of militias and prayer, they still needed weapons.
Nowadays, Hezbollah; Hamas; Islamic Jihad; and the 9,482* other groups bent on Israel’s destruction aren’t held back with prayer.
Maintaining Israel’s security is a unique strategic challenge that has forced the Jewish state to adopt the technology of others, while also innovating some of its own solutions to keep the peace — and fight when needed.
*estimated with zero evidence. But there are a lot of them. Trust me.
7. The F-16I “Sufa”
There’s nothing new about an F-16 Fighting Falcon, especially considering it’s been the workhorse of the free world since long before Communism fell. While the world oohs and ahhs at the F-35’s ultra-expensive helmet, the F-16I’s (I for Israel) helmet uses and integrated radar and helmet system that allows the pilot to fire the fighter’s weapons just by looking at its target.
6. Sa’ar 5 Corvette
Israel has coastline only in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, but the nautical border shared with many of its traditional enemies makes it vitally important for Israel to have effective Naval force. Enter the Sa’ar 5.
The Sa’ar 5 packs a wallop for a ship of its size and class. It features two 324-mm torpedo tubes, eight Harpoon missiles, 16 Barak-8 and 32 Barak-1 surface-to-air missiles. And let’s not forget the mighty Phalanx CIWS to protect it from surprises, like Hezbollah’s radar-guided missiles.
5. Protector Drones
The Israel Defense Forces are the first to field armed seaborne drones for surveillance missions in and around Israeli territory. It’s remotely controlled by two operators and uses a Typhoon remote weapons system attached to a machine gun and grenade launcher.
Variants of the protector can even be fitted with a SPIKE “fire-and-forget” missile system.
4. Tavor-21 Assault Rifle
The Israeli military uses a number of small arms developed by various countries, including the U.S.-designed M4 carbine. Their homegrown weapons are the ones for which they’re most proud, especially the Tavor-21 rifle and all its variants.
The Tavor is more compact and easier to maintain than the M4A1 carbine. The “bullpup” design maintains a shorter overall length while still using a standard-length barrel for better ballistics. The Tavor fires NATO 5.56 ammunition. It is set to replace the M4A1 as the standard issue rifle for the IDF as early as 2018.
3. Merkava IV
The Merkava has a number of tank innovations for the Israel Defense Forces’ unique needs. Its weapons include a 124-mm cannon that can fire Lahat anti-tank missiles. Other weapons include three heavy machine guns, smoke launchers, and a 60-mm mortar.
Its fire control system also allows for defense against enemy attack helicopters. None of that is as awesome for the crew as the Merkava’s…
2. Trophy Tank Defense System
Guided anti-tank missiles weren’t something the developers of WWII-era armor had to worry about. These days, anti-tank missiles are cheap and plentiful — especially for Hezbollah. For anyone who’s ever wanted to order “Star Trek’s” Enterprise crew to raise shields, you can do that in the IDF.
When your most persistent and determined enemy’s biggest tactic is to randomly fire missiles into your territory and hope it hits something important, you need a way to mitigate that threat because Hamas might actually achieve that some day. The Iron Dome is how Israel has been doing it since 2011.
The U.S. Coast Guard has always been the little agency that could.
It’s the only U.S. military branch that isn’t a permanent member of the Department of Defense, it’s constantly the last in line for the budget (it is one of the agencies with lots of money on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal), and it’s constantly getting made fun of by the other services.
2. Respond to chemical, biological, nuclear, and other threats
Of course, the Coast Guard doesn’t just field the emergency calls for terror attacks. When law enforcement and intelligence agencies get word of possible threats, they can call the Maritime Safety and Security Teams. These guys specialize in securing American and friendly ports that are at heightened risk of attack.
3. Capturing and occupying captured oil rigs at sea
One of the largest special operations in history took place on March 21, 2003, when Navy SEALs and Polish special operators seized Iraq’s oil platforms at the same time that other forces took land-based sections of Iraq’s oil infrastructure.
The often unsung heroes of that operation are the soldiers and Coast Guardsmen who gave the SEALs the ride and provided the gun platforms that supported the operation from the water. The Coast Guard sent eight 25-foot boats to the platforms and provided the defensive positions that allowed the U.S. to hold the platforms after the SEALs captured them.
4. Landing U.S. soldiers and Marines at D-Day, Guadalcanal, and hundreds of other places
Did anyone think it odd that the Coast Guard would be in charge of landing and supporting operators hitting oil rigs in a carefully synchronized operation? It’s a little unusual, but only because they’re used to hitting beaches and rivers.
Every time a soldier steps into the Central Issue Facility, they are given a lot of gear — some necessary, like more uniforms, and some beloved, like the woobie.
But there’s a lot of gear that just never gets touched until the next time they come back to clear CIF. It’s probably still in the same packaging it came in when it’s turned over.
This crap just sits in a duffle bag, shoved in the back of the closet.
And yet it will get rejected for not being cleaned — even if it’s still sealed in the friggin’ bag! (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Moore)
Ask any civilian to name a piece of military gear and they’ll say the canteen.
Back in the day, it was a life saver — no doubt about that. But today, it’s only ever seen in training environments or by that one “overly high speed” dude in every unit. The rest of us use water bottles or Camelbacks while we’re deployed.
Because rubber canteens are gross.
The canteen cup, however, is still very useful. It makes a great coffee cup/shaving water container/holder of smaller crap.
7. Elbow Pads
Knee pads help protect a sensitive and fragile part of your body that really takes a beating (and will ultimately be destroyed anyway after years of ruck marching or one static jump). But until then, kneepads protect from bruising and lacerations, and, most importantly, help secure a more comfortable firing position.
Not the elbow pads. They just get in the way.
A common joke deployed is that you can always tell who the POGs are by either how they react to the Indirect Fire (IDF) siren or if they actually think other soldiers actually wear those useless pieces of crap that just slide down or restrict movement.
6. Most Rain Gear
Other units may authorize their Joes to wear most of the wet weather gear, others only allow it in the worst conditions that even the salty Sergeant Major has had enough of it. Shy of the Gortex top, no one touches their wet weather bottoms or boots.
Even the poncho only ever gets used as a makeshift shelter half on field exercises.
5. MOPP Boots
Speaking of useless boots, the pair that gets used interchangeably during lay outs is just as useless.
In an actual chemical gas attack, we put our gas mask on first. Followed by everything else in order of what is the most vital to survival. The boots? Nope. They take way too freaking long to put on in an emergency when you have bigger things to worry about. Taking the time to lace your MOPP boots properly definitely falls off the to-do list.
4. Glove Inserts
It’s nice when troops are allowed to wear gloves in formation. The problem is that the standard issue leather shells also need liners.
The glove inserts are just a thin piece of wool that do nothing to stop the cold. Wind cuts right through them and god help you if they ever get wet.
3. Load Bearing Vest (LBV)
The purpose behind the LBV makes no sense. It holds all of the gear that one would need down range, or at the range, but offers none of the protection of an actual ballistic vest.
So why not wear the actual ballistic vest? LBVs don’t do anything except dig into your shoulder.
2. Surefire ACH Light
Everyone wants to be high speed and rock the high speed gear…until it’s time to rock the high speed gear.
At first glance, these look nifty as hell. It would be helpful to have a hands free light guiding your way.
But no. Try working these with gloves on or switching to the red light without cycling through every single other function first.
Or even try to make it through a forest field training without bumping into something and losing the $200 waste of garbage. Good luck finding the right batteries for these things too.
Too complicated. Not worth it.
1. BVD Army Issued Skivvies
Anyone who says they didn’t immediately trash all pairs of these after Basic so they “can stay within regulation” is either way too ‘Hooah’ for their current rank or a damned dirty liar.
The skivvies are like sand paper grinding against your ‘sensitive bits’ whenever you take a step. No one will ever check to see if their subordinate is wearing proper under garments or even care (and if they do…there’s a much bigger problem at hand). Why not just wear whatever you bought at American Eagle or Target?
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself interim president in January 2019, appeared to be in hiding as the country’s military leaders declared their support for his rival, President Nicolás Maduro.
The whereabouts of Guaidó, 35, remains unknown after he symbolically swore in as the country’s interim president on Jan. 23, 2019, before tens of thousands of supporters, promising to remove Maduro from power.
Guaidó has said that he needs support from three groups: The Venezuelan people, the international community, and the military, The Associated Press reported.
He hasn’t passed all three tests yet.
The long list of countries supporting his claim — including the US, the EU, and most of Venezuela’s neighbors — gives him a good argument that he has persuaded the international community.
President Nicolás Maduro.
It is difficult to measure Guaidó’s popular support, though his rallies have pulled in huge crowds. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in support of Guaidó in January 2019.
In the early years of the U.S. Military Academy’s history, the “Father of West Point,” Col. Sylvanus Thayer, was trying to whip the future officers of the U.S. military into shape. He began by outlawing alcohol on the academy grounds. The cadets were also not permitted to leave the academy.
Egg nog was pretty different back in 1826. Today, it’s more of a sweet, dessert drink and the addition of rum or brandy isn’t as popular as it once was. Back then, nog — like life — was a lot more intense.
Before the alcohol ban, an egg nog night was part of West Point’s Christmas tradition, and the cadets weren’t about to let the tradition die because of one guy’s teetotaling. So, a young cadet named Jefferson Davis and a group of others decided to sneak some booze into the eggnog party.
They snuck in a few gallons of whiskey under Thayer’s nose (with the help, of course, an enlisted man). On Christmas Day, officers of the day Capt. Ethan Allen Hitchcock and Lt. William A. Thorton tried to monitor the cadets, but they could only do so much. They were woken in the middle of the night by a drunken party in the barracks. They dispersed it, but the revelers sought revenge.
Partying cadets raged on a different floor and the officers moved to break that one up. Thorton was knocked to the floor with a piece of wood while another took a shot at Hitchcock with a pistol. He called a runner to get the Commandant, but that request was misinterpreted as a summons for artillery troops stationed on the grounds.
The cadets reinforced the windows and entrances to the barracks to prevent the artillerymen from gaining entry. The interiors and windows of the building were smashed and damaged. They literally drummed up the cadets from their beds to prepare for bombardment.
As the smoke is still settling down over the charred ruins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound details about the operation are already emerging.
SOFREP has learned that the assault force was comprised of approximately 70 operators from Delta Force’s A Squadron and Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment. The air package included eight helicopters, a combination of MH-60 Blackhawks and MH-47 Chinooks, from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR). Supporting the operation were two MC-130J Commando II tankers, which provided mid-air refueling, and an unspecified number of F-15Es, which ensured air-superiority and bombed the compounded after the assault force had left.
The assault force received fire on its way in, its flight route overflew enemy-held territory, but it was quickly suppressed by the supporting air assets. The Russian government had received notification that an operation against ISIS would be taking place in the area. This ensured that the Russian forces didn’t engage the assault force inadvertently.
Upon reaching the target, the assault force immediately came under fire. Fearing a booby trapped main door, the assault force’s breachers penetrated the compound’s walls. Thereafter, training and experience kicked in and the assault force quickly secured the compound.
Former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Al-Baghdadi tried to flee through one of the many tunnels but picked a wrong one that was a dead-end. He detonated a suicided vest that killed three of his children. Two of his wives, also wearing suicide vests, were killed during the operation. Numerous other ISIS fighters were also killed and a number captured.
The assault team remained on the ground for about two hours conducting Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), which most probably produced actionable intelligence on additional ISIS targets.
Using facial recognition technology, the operators managed to get a positive identification on al-Baghdadi on the spot – after the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest, his head separated almost intact. But to be 100 percent sure about his identity, the assault force had to get more biological evidence that was sent for DNA testing.
No operators were injured during the operation but a Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD) was wounded.
In a televised address to the nation, President Donald Trump said that “This raid was impeccable. [Al-Baghdadi] died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a safer place. . .Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them.”
Donald Trump: Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘died like a dog’
U.S. intelligence suspected that al-Baghdadi was located in the area since mid-summer. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proved to be key in the operations by furnishing critical and time-sensitive intelligence that pinpointed the location of the ISIS leader. They verified his position almost a month ago. The compound was under continuous surveillance for the past two weeks. The Turkish invasion in northern Syria forced U.S. officials to cancel the operation three times.
Another interesting note about the operation is that the assault force launched from Erbil, Iraq, and not from U.S. Base in Incirlik, Turkey. The former is almost 450 miles from the village the terrorist leader was hiding in; the latter a scant 65 miles.
The mission was named Operation Kayla Mueller, after the American humanitarian aid worker caught, raped, and killed by ISIS.
Delta’s A Squadron was very close to killing Osama bin Laden back in the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001.
Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.
“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.
Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.
While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”
Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.
Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.
Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.
“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”
Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.
Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.
“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.
“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”
About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.
“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”
Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.
Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.
On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.
“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”
But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.
“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”
There are mainly two types of missiles being pursued in this race: hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Both are being pursued by a number of nations, but China, Russia, and the US are leading the way.
Two types of weapons
HCMs are essentially faster cruise missiles and HGVs are basically replacements for conventional re-entry vehicles that are put on ICBMs.
Of the two, HGVs are the easiest to make, since they only have to overcome one of the three obstacles — material science.
HGVs are put on top of ICBMs. When they reach a maximum altitude, they separate from the missile and glide on top of the atmosphere to their target — in this case, at hypersonic speeds.
Because of their hypersonic speeds, there may not even need to be any explosives on the weapons themselves, since the kinetic energy could be strong enough to cause damage in a limited area — although nowhere near the size of a nuclear blast.
What makes both weapons so threatening is the fact that they are maneuverable, meaning they can change direction at any moment and keep their intended target secret until the last few moments before impact.
Current missiles can be intercepted because their flight paths are determined by momentum and gravity. Most, if not all, anti-ballistic missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore, require a projectile to make physical contact for a successful intercept or be close enough so that shrapnel from a proximity explosion could damage an incoming missile.
Because HCMs and HGVs are maneuverable and fly at such high speeds, interception of such missiles is almost impossible.
Dangerous potential results of hypersonic weapons
Widespread proliferation of this technology could have results that increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, especially when these weapons are armed with nuclear payloads.
According to a report on hypersonic weapons that was published by the RAND Corporation, governments may be so concerned with maintaining first-strike capability, since the response time for these weapons is so short, that they may take be forced to take risky actions.
These include devolving the command and control of the weapons to the military instead of the national leaders, wider disbursement of the weapons across the globe, a launch-on-warning posture, and a decision to strike first.
The RAND report shows that at least 23 countries are active in pursuing hypersonic technology for commercial or military use. Currently, the US, Russia, and China are leading the race.
The report suggests that widespread proliferation of hypersonic technology could lead to militaries around the world, particularly those that have tense relations with their neighbors, having capabilities that could be destabilizing.
The RAND Corporation suggests that this could also spur changes or amendments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary agreement with 35 nations that aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
RAND believes that the MTCR should include completed hypersonic delivery vehicles, scramjets, and other hypersonic components to the list of items that cannot be exported. At the very least, a trilateral agreement between the US, Russia, and China could be made to prevent hypersonic weapons from falling into dangerous hands.
RAND believes that hypersonic missiles will become operable on the battlefield in the next 10 years.
Obstacles preventing sustained hypersonic flight
Hypersonic technology allows cruise missiles and nuclear weapons to go as fast as Mach 5 or above — roughly 3,800 miles per hour, or 340 miles every six minutes.
Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as Mach 20 or 24 (Mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time.
Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight, overcoming three different challenges: material science; aerodynamics and flight control; and propulsion.
The problem of material science is relatively straightforward. Because the missile will be flying at such high speed, materials with high melting points are needed so they can absorb heat that would be gathered over a long period of time, so as to prevent the disintegration of the missile.
“You can think of it as flying into this blow torch,” Rich Moore, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, said. “The faster a vehicle flies, the pressure and temperature rises exponentially.”
The problem of aerodynamics and flight control is somewhat related. In order to achieve hypersonic speeds, the body of the missile needs to be constructed so that air resistance is minimal. Furthermore, the shape of the missile must be structurally strong enough to prevent bending and flexing which would affect the flight performance.
“You’re under such high pressures, you are going so fast, that the body itself may not keep its shape all the time,” George Nacouzi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider in an interview.
Propulsion is probably the most complex challenge after material science. Once an object reaches Mach 5, traditional jet engines cannot generate enough power to maintain the speed or go faster. “It has been compared to lighting a match in a 2,000 mile an hour wind,” said Richard Speier, a political scientist at RAND.
Trying to keep the engine going is extremely complex.
“You have potential shockwaves, the combustion has to be just at the right rate, you have to have the right mixture of fuel and oxidizer,” Nacouzi said of the difficulties.
The result of trying to overcome this problem is a scramjet, an uncluttered, air-breathing engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for combustion. Though scramjets are currently in a testing phase, they have already reached hypersonic speeds.
Dr. Nacouzi believes that out of those three problems, flight control may be the easiest to overcome.
Bullying is nothing new; even the Old West had its share of bullies. When one of those Old West villains made the mistake of poking fun at the glasses of a stout man of average height in a Mingusville, Montana, hotel one day, he got run out of town on a train.
The fight began with what might be the oldest taunt against people who wear glasses. The fact that this particular bully said it to young Teddy Roosevelt in 1884 just goes to show how old the name “four eyes” really is. But the bully had no idea who was wearing those glasses. TR didn’t come looking for a fight, but he always looked to end them.
Bullies learn the hard way.
This is the guy who cured his own asthma using just willpower, after all.
By 1884, Teddy Roosevelt did not yet have the bold international reputation he would have in later years, but he was still a successful boxer and martial artist. He wore his signature round spectacles, as he always had, even when he was ranching in the Dakota Territory. The bully in question could not have known about TR’s dedication to his personal “Big Stick” policy.
Roosevelt was on a sort of hiatus from political life, having supported a losing candidate in the Republican Party. His wife Alice died during childbirth earlier that year. His mother died just days later. He left the world of New York politics to start a second ranch out west, where he did more than play cowboy in the Dakota Badlands. It was there he learned to rope, ride, and hunt in the Wild West. He even wrote three books about his time there.
Don’t talk sh*t.
When he came into Nolan’s Hotel in what was then Mingusville, Montana, he was on a self-driven riding trip through the Badlands and Western Dakota areas. Late one cool evening, as he walked upstairs to the bar area, he heard two shots ring out. He noticed the people in the room were looking around with fake smiles. A man with two cocked pistols in his hands was apparently shooting at the clock on the wall.
As soon as he saw the young Roosevelt, he told the room that “Four Eyes” was going to buy drinks for everyone. Roosevelt just laughed it off and took a seat by the stove — but the man followed him. He stood over the future president and told him again that “Four Eyes” was going to buy the drinks, guns still in each hand. Teddy laughed and stood up.
TR was well-known for his boxing exploits later in life.
“Well, if I’ve got to, I’ve got to,” Roosevelt told the man as he stood.
Instead of laughing it off, Roosevelt hit the man with a hard right to the jaw as he rose, then followed it up with a left and another right. The guns went off, but Roosevelt was unsure if the man was actually trying to shoot him. With Roosevelt’s final right, the man stumbled into the bar, hitting his head and knocking himself senseless. With that, the bar owners dragged the man out into a nearby shed and put him on a freight train the next morning.
The makers of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter revealed the combat mission of the aircraft, and one of its key tasks would most likely see it getting shot down by decades-old US and European fighter jets.
The J-20 has impressed observers with its advanced design and formidable weapons, but the jet’s actual combat mission has remained somewhat of a mystery.
But Andreas Rupprecht, a German researcher focused on China’s air power, recently posted an informational brochure from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the J-20’s maker, laying out its mission.
It described the J-20 as a “heavy stealth” fighter that’s “renowned” for its dominance in medium- and long-range air combat and first lists “seizing maintaining air superiority” as its core missions.
But the J-20s purported air-superiority role is likely to raise more eyebrows.
J-20 stealth fighter jet.
(Flickr photo by emperornie)
J-20 loses the old-fashioned fight for the skies
Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that for the J-20, fighting US or European jets for control of the skies represents a losing battle.
The J-20 is “certainly likely to be more capable as an air-superiority platform than anything else the People’s Liberation Army Air Force” — China’s air force’s official name — “is currently operating,” Bronk said.
“With a powerful radar and multiple internal air-to-air missiles as well as long range, it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as an air-superiority machine,” he continued.
But just because it’s China’s best doesn’t mean it can hold a candle to Europe’s Typhoon fighter or even the US’s F-15, which first flew in 1972.
“In terms of thrust to weight, maneuverability, and high-altitude performance, it is unlikely to match up to the US or European air-superiority fighters,” Bronk said.
China’s J-20 made a solid entry into the world of stealth fighter aircraft and became the only non-US stealth jet in the world. It’s designed to significantly limit the ability of US radar to spot and track the large fighter, but the stealth mainly works on the front end, while the J-20 is flying straight toward the radar.
Tactically, experts have told Business Insider, the J-20 poses a serious threat in the interception and maritime-strike roles with its stealth design, but so far the jet has yet to deliver.
China has suffered embarrassing setbacks in domestically building jet engines that would give the J-20 true fifth-generation performance on par with the F-35 or the F-22.
Bronk said China still appears years away from crossing this important threshold that would increase the range and performance of the jets.
“The engines are a significant limiting factor” in that they require inefficient use of afterburners and limit high-altitude performance, Bronk said.
An F-15C Eagle preparing to refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker.
(US Air Force photo)
What air superiority looks like
As it stands, the J-20 couldn’t match the F-15 or the Eurofighter Typhoon, or even get close to an F-22, Bronk said.
“Against the F-15C and Typhoon, the J-20 has a lower radar cross section but worse performance, and its air-to-air missiles are unlikely to yet match the latest [US] series and certainly not the new European Meteor,” Bronk said.
Bronk said that China had made great strides in air-to-air missile development and was testing at an “extremely high” pace, so the capability gap could close in a few short years.
But how does the J-20 stack up to the greatest air-superiority plane on the planet today, the F-22?
“The F-22 likely significantly outperforms the J-20 in almost every aspect of combat capability except for combat radius,” Bronk said, referring to the farthest distance a loaded plane can travel without refueling.
Undoubtedly, the J-20 represents a significant leap in Chinese might and poses a serious and potentially critical threat to US air power in its ability to intercept and launch deep strikes.
But in the narrow role of air superiority — beating the best fighters the other side can offer to gain control of the sky — the US and Europe could most likely beat down China’s J-20 without much trouble.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.