How movie sets hide the fact that they're firing blanks in films - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Troops are very acquainted with using blank rounds. We slap in a magazine filled with them, screw on a blank-firing adapter (or BFA), and continue training for the day. Without fail, we go out and someone inevitably takes a photo of themselves trying to look all badass like in the movies — but they can’t. That BFA just looks ridiculous and lets everyone know immediately that they’re just training.

So if you really want to look as badass as they do in the movies, you have to look at how the special effects teams on a film set do it. They’re obviously not firing actual, live rounds at each other during the film’s climactic ending — that’d violate so many safety regulations and break countless union rules — but to us, the audience, it feels real.

They’re firing firing blanks, just like the troops in training, but they’ve some ingenious ways of hiding that fact.


How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

When you put the flash hider back on, you can’t tell the difference unless you’re up close and personal.

(Combat Disabled Veteran’s Surplus)

Most semi-automatic firearms use the gas expelled from ejected rounds to cycle in another round. Blank rounds don’t create enough gas pressure in the barrel to make this happen, so, if you’re firing blanks, you need a blank-firing adapter. Firing without a BFA will inevitably cause a failure-to-feed.

The BFA acts more as a plug for the gas. It keeps in just enough gas to build the pressure needed in the chamber for a person to continue shooting without interruption while still letting enough oxygen in.

On a film set, however, you can’t have the actors looking like they’re troops in basic (unless that’s what the film is about). Instead, they screw a tiny blank-firing adapter onto the end of the barrel, underneath the flash hider, as shown below.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

If you love ‘Sons of Anarchy’… just don’t hit pause during the gunfights of the first season. Yikes.

(AMC)

Other film sets use entirely decommissioned firearms that have been repurposed as production weapons. Propsmasters will replace most of the assembly with components that require less gas pressure to function. These are close copies, but, ultimately, they’re just replicas — and enthusiasts can tell.

People who’ve been around firearms can quickly spot when filmmakers add an abundance of flash coming out of the muzzle. But it’s a known inaccuracy and it’s done with a purpose. Films, in general, are shown (and often captured) at a rate of 24 frames per second. Without enhancing the muzzle flash, there’s a good chance that the camera won’t capture a flash at all — and that visual bang is an important part of selling the illusion of real gunfire.

But then there are the films crews that skip all of these mechanical steps and add the flashes and sound effects entirely in post-production. It’s comparatively cheaper when you factor in the costs of safety crews and whatnot, but the results aren’t always so great…

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

An interesting and positive side note: Lee’s stunt double, who’d also replace him for the rest of the film was Chad Stahelski, the man who’d later direct John Wick.

(Summit Entertainment)

Which leads us to the elephant in the room — the incident that took place on the set of 1994’s The Crow, which lead to the death of the actor Brandon Lee. One of the special effects guys tried to save time and money by making their own blank rounds from live .44 rounds. The weapon they were using on set was an actual handgun and made use these modified rounds. Well, one day, it didn’t work perfectly and a piece of the cartridge broke off and got lodged in the barrel. No one bothered to inspect the firearm or clean it. They tossed it aside and carried on with production.

A few days later, when they needed more firearms for a bigger scene, they grabbed that same handgun. Loaded with another home-made blank and with that fragment of the cartridge still in the barrel, a stunt actor fired it at Lee. Since his character was supposed to react to the shot (and Lee was known for being a gifted actor) no one noticed that Lee had actually been shot until well after the camera stopped rolling.

Though nothing can undo the tragedy that befell Brandon Lee, the silver lining is that firearms have since been treated with more care on set. Many safety regulations are now in place to prevent such a horrible tragedy from happening again.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy needs help fixing its $13 billion supercarriers

The Navy is struggling to fix its new Ford-class supercarriers, so the service has called in outside experts to help find a solution amid delivery delays and rising costs.

The advanced weapons elevators, critical systems that the secretary of the Navy bet his job on, are one of the biggest problems. Only two of the 11 electromagnetic lifts on the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operational.

The advanced weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers are designed to move 20,000 pounds of munitions up to the flight deck at a rate of 150 feet per minute, a significant improvement over elevators on the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers able to lift only 10,500 pounds at 100 feet per minute. These lifts are crucial to increasing the aircraft sortie rate, thus increasingly the lethality of the new carriers over their predecessors.


But that requires they work, and right now, they don’t.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told President Donald Trump in December 2018 that “the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me.” He told reporters earlier this year that “we’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done. I haven’t been fired yet by anyone. Being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The secretary assured the president that problems with the elevators would be resolved by the end of the post-shakedown availability (PSA), a maintenance period following initial sea trials. The PSA was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but it has since been delayed to October 2019.

Trump has fixated on the Ford-class’s electromagnetic catapults that launch planes into the air, and said the future carriers would return to steam-powered catapults.

Even with the delays, the Navy doubted it could solve the elevator problem by the end of the PSA. “The elevators are going to require more work after the PSA,” a Navy official previously told Business Insider. “The elevators are the long pole in the tent,” he said, clarifying that integration remains the greatest challenge.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni.

So, the Navy has decided to bring in outside help, Breaking Defense reported July 1, 2019.

“We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts told the defense media outlet in a statement. “We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators.”

The team of experts called into work with Huntington Ingalls at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia has experience with electromagnetic systems, electrical engineering, and systems integration. This group will “recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class,” Guerts said.

While the Navy has yet to get the Ford working as intended, the service has already committed billions of dollars to the development of three additional Ford-class carriers.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Legacy begun by U.S. Navy legend continues with Army Reserve pilot and beyond

RICHMOND, Va. — Every time he straps on the leather band of his watch in the morning, Phillip Brashear remembers his father.


“My dad’s famous saying is, ‘It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down,'” Brashear said.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Those words are engraved on the back of a Swiss limited-edition wristwatch, surrounding the iconic image of a Mark V diver suit helmet. The watch was manufactured in honor of Carl Brashear, the first African-American master diver in U.S. Navy’s history who lost his leg during a tragic accident on a mission off the coast of Spain in 1966.

Two airplanes had collided, dropping a payload that included three nuclear warheads. One of them fell into the Atlantic Ocean. Carl Brashear was called to dive and recover the bomb, but during the mission a towline was pulled so tight that it ripped off a pole, dragging it across the deck with so much tension that it cut the bottom part of his leg, nearly ripping it off. Back in the United States, doctors decided to amputate the leg below the knee.

“My father is an American legend,” said Brashear. “He was the first amputee to return to active-duty service in one of the most challenging jobs in the Navy.”

His life story was depicted in the Hollywood movie “Men of Honor” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro.

“My father overcame five barriers in his lifetime. He overcame racism. My father overcame poverty, being a poor sharecropper’s son. He overcame illiteracy. He lost the bottom part of his leg and was physically disabled. … He overcame his alcoholism, and in 1979 retired with honors,” Brashear said.

Today, Phillip Brashear is the command chief warrant officer for the 80th Training Command, which is responsible for military courses that train thousands of Army Reserve Soldiers around the country.

Brashear thanks service members like his father and the Tuskegee Airmen for the opportunities that men and women of every skin color and background have today.

“He opened the door for many others to come behind him,” he said.

Brashear has more than 38 years of military service, starting in the U.S. Navy Reserve, then the U.S. Army National Guard and now with the U.S. Army Reserve. He spent most of that time flying helicopters.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

“I used to tease my dad all the time. … I scored higher than you on the ASVAB test,” he said, referring to the aptitude test used to assign military jobs. “I get to be a helicopter pilot. I go up, not down. My daddy said, ‘Aw, get the heck out of my face. … Remember son, there’s always divers looking for pilots. There’s never pilots looking for divers.”

That banter between father and son came close to becoming a dark premonition for Phillip in 2006 while deployed to Iraq. A flash flood washed away part of a convoy, and Brashear was involved in recovering the bodies.

“That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to get out of that helicopter in a combat operation to retrieve dead Americans, bring them back to safety so their families could have closure,” he said.

Though the bodies were not Navy divers in the middle of the ocean, Brashear recovered Marines whose lives were taken by water.

The rest of his Iraq tour offered no relief. He was with the Virginia Army National Guard at the time, responsible for flying personnel and material across Iraqi deserts under constant gunfire and the threat of improvised explosive attacks. Even at night, he could see the barrage of tracer rounds piercing the sky like lasers.

“I remember the heat. Constant heat. Like a blow dryer in your face. I remember the constant thirst. The constant fear from getting in that helicopter in a combat zone,” Brashear said.

Then one day, he came home from deployment on a Red Cross message. His father was ill. However, Brasher didn’t think it was severe, and during his visit home, Phillip believed his father would recover. He thought his dad was invincible. This was the man who had endured a year of recovery wearing a 300-pound suit after losing a leg to become a master diver. As a master chief petty officer later in his career, Sailors scurried out of the way whenever this legend walked onto a ship.

“He’s gonna be fine,” the son thought, so he walked into his father’s hospital room complaining about Iraq.

“I’m like, Dad, man. I’m getting shot at. The food’s bad. It sucks over there. It’s hot,” he recalled.

“Son, what are you complaining about?” his father asked.

The calm in the old man’s voice took him by surprise. Something in his father’s presence caused the younger Brashear to pause.

“He was on his deathbed. He would have traded places with me in a heartbeat … to go fly helicopters in harm’s way, but I wouldn’t have traded places with him,” Brashear said.

“A few days after, he died in my arms. … His body just gave up. He’d been through so much. He just couldn’t suffer any more. So he – he left us,” he said.

After his deployment, Brashear decided to retire from the Army, but while going through his father’s belongings, he remembered his father’s fighting words.

“It’s not a sin to get knocked down. …”

He returned to service in the U.S. Army Reserve, which he said offered him opportunities even the National Guard couldn’t have given him, including the command-level position he holds now. He continued to fly helicopters for about a decade. Over the course of his career, he’s flown the UH-1 “Huey” – recognized as the Vietnam-era helicopter – the UH-60 Black Hawk and two different models of the CH-47 Chinook.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Then, in 2014, Brashear faced adversity of his own. During his annual flight physical, he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that took him off flight status.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world to be denied your job because of something medical. That’s like someone taking away your livelihood. So, just like my dad, I said, ‘I’m not going to let this stop me. I’m going to get back up and get my job back,'” Brashear said.

He received a procedure known as cardioversion, a medical treatment that restores normal heart rhythm through electric shocks. As it turns out, his heart doctor, Michael Spooner, also treated Brashear’s father in the last 10 years of his life. The A-Fib kept Brashear off flight status for a year, but he continued his recovery until he passed his physical and returned to flying.

Now, Brashear is among the few dozen command chiefs in the U.S. Army Reserve. He serves as the top technical expert for his command and invests his time mentoring warrant officers and Soldiers wherever he goes.

With all four of his children grown, Brashear lives with his wife, Sandra, outside Richmond, Virginia. They have three daughters – Tia, Megan, Melanie – and a son, Tyler, who is an ROTC cadet studying biology at North Carolina AT University.

“It’s just a great legacy to have my father, who in the Navy was a great legend. Then myself a combat veteran in the Army. And now my son, who is going to be following our footsteps with leadership and service to our country,” he said.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

popular

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.


In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.

 

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
An Army Special Forces soldier armed with a Mk-17 SCAR-H, America’s modern variant of a classic battle rifle. (Photo: USASOC via Flickr)

 

Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.

Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.

With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.

Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.

 

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
Irish soldiers armed with the FN FAL rifle in The Congo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”

Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.

Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.

In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.

In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.

 

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
British troops modified the receiver to accommodate optics. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.

For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.

Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.

The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.

Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how the Battle of the Coral Sea would go down today

The Battle of the Coral Sea is notable for being the first naval battle in which ships fought without ever sighting the enemy fleet. This means that all the fighting was done with aircraft — the ships themselves never exchanged fire.

But how would that same carrier battle play out today?


Let’s assume for the sake of this thought experiment that the United States is operating a pair of carriers, like USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), with a pair of Ticonderoga-class cruisers and eight Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Let’s not forget the support from Australia and New Zealand — today, that’d be one Hobart-class destroyer and three Anzac-class frigates (two Australian, one from New Zealand) joining the escort.

The likely opponent? Let’s say the People’s Liberation Army Navy has sent both of their Kuznetsov-class carriers, escorted by four Type 52C destroyers and four Sovremennyy-class destroyers.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

This map shows how the original Battle of the Coral Sea went down.

(U.S. Army)

The Chinese carriers would be operating at somewhat of a disadvantage from the get-go. The American-Australian force would have the benefit of land-based maritime patrol planes, like the P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon, as well as radar planes, like the E-3 Sentry and E-2 Hawkeye. These planes would likely find the Chinese carriers and get a position report off. The pilots would be heroes. Unfortunately, a J-15 Flanker would likely shoot them down quickly thereafter.

By this point, though, the Carl Vinson and Gerald R. Ford are going to be launching their alpha strikes on the Chinese carriers. Each of these carriers will be operating 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and a dozen F-35C Lightnings. This strike will likely be done in conjunction with some B-1B Lancers operating from Australia or some other land base.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

The Liaoning would be at a disadvantage in a present-day Battle of the Coral Sea.

(Japanese Ministry of Defense)

The Chinese J-15s will fight valiantly, but the American carrier-based fighters will probably wipe them out – though they’ll suffer some losses in the process. The Chinese force will, however, be hit by a number of AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles. The carriers will be sunk or seriously damaged, left stranded a long way from home. One or both may even be sunk by submarines later (an American submarine tried to attack the damaged Shokaku after the Battle of the Coral Sea, but failed to get in position).

Ultimately, as was the case in the first Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States would win. This time, though, it would be a much more unequivocal victory.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines sailed through the Strait of Hormuz ready for an Iran fight

US Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer recently sailed through the Strait of Hormuz with an armored vehicle strapped to the flight deck, ready to fight off drones and Iranian gunboats.

A light armored vehicle belonging to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit can be seen on the flight deck as an AH-1Z Viper lifts off in a recently released Marine Corps photo, NPR’s Phil Ewing first noted.

The Marine Corps LAV-25 has a high-end targeting system that directs its 25 mm chain guns and M240 7.62 mm machine gun. The Boxer is armed with counter-air missiles, as well as various close-in weapon systems, among other weapons. The Vipers carry two air-to-air missiles, rocket pods, a handful of air-to-surface missiles, and a 20 mm Gatling cannon.


The Marine Corps began experimenting last year with strapping LAVs to the decks of the amphibs — flattops capable of carrying helicopters and vertical take-off and landing jets, as well as transporting Marines — to make the ships more lethal.

In September 2018, the 31st MEU embarked aboard the USS Wasp, another amphibious assault ship, for an exercise in the South China Sea with a LAV parked on the flight deck, training to fend off the types of threats Marines might face in hostile waterways.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

The AH-1Z Viper taking off from the Boxer.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

“This was the first time,” Capt. George McArthur, a 31st MEU spokesman, told Military Times, “that an LAV-25 platoon with the 31st MEU performed this level of integrated targeting and live-fire from the flight deck of a ship such as the Wasp with combined arms.”

He added: “Weapons Company assets improved the integrated defensive posture aboard the Wasp.”

The Boxer was harassed by Iranian unmanned aerial assets in the Strait of Hormuz in July 2019, and the US says the warship downed one, if not two, of the drones with a new electronic jamming system. Another potential threat in this region is Iranian gunboats, which have targeted commercial shipping in recent months.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, on a Light Armored Vehicle atop the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. E. V. Hagewood)

Commenting on why the Marines experimented with using armored vehicles on the flight decks of the amphibs, Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the director of expeditionary warfare for the chief of naval operations, said in November 2019 that he “watched a MEU commander strap an LAV to the front of a flight deck because it had better sensors than the ship did to find small boats.”

That the Boxer was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz with an LAV out on the flight deck suggests that the ship was ready for a confrontation.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This smart scale whipped me into shape faster than a personal trainer

If December is the season for consumerist gluttony, and full-fat eggnog, then January is the time for carrot sticks, running on the treadmill, and staring blankly at a scale that says you’ve only lost two pounds since the new year. If you, like me, found yourself in that happy place between despondency and full-on despair, you may need a smart scale to ever so gently nudge you along.


We’ve all felt that intense, cloying sense of dread when stepping on the scale. They’re generally the square, bulky things you willfully sidestep when you walk in to take a leak. Enter the Qardio’s QardioBase2. It makes getting into shape … intriguing. It’s a WiFi- or Bluetooth-connected circular scale that hooks up with the corresponding app and works on any surface, and it’s designed to be your kinder and gentler weight loss and fitness coach.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Fitness resolutions may center on pounds and ounces, but Qardio’s QardioBase2 smart scale focuses its feedback on direction rather than specific, hard-core goals. If you’re looking for something that offers its readout in more general, encouraging terms rather than the bark of a drill instructor, this is the bathroom scale for you.

Rather than spitting out a single weight, the QardioBase2 provides feedback on your body mass index, tracking it over time and rewarding you with one of three faces: smiling for weight loss, a neutral face for negligible results, and a frown when you’ve indulged a little too much.

Granted, for some its smiley-centric feedback is a bit too twee, and for those who need black-and-white reports, it also reads weight, along with muscle mass, fat percentage, bone, and water composition, allowing you to drill down as far as you want. All stats are recorded via its app to you can track progress over time. It weights just under seven pounds, is 13 inches in diameter, and works with iOS 10.0 or later, Kindle, Android 5 or later, and the Apple Watch.

Beyond the emoji feedback, which may be a tad precious, there’s a lot more to love. Its sleek design and tempered glass top in either black or white is less than an inch thick and adds class to even the most humble bathroom.

For those who want options for the whole family, it automatically detects individual users, recording data separately as such. It also has a pregnancy mode to track weight gain and progress as your partner gets further and further along in her pregnancy. Plus, she can add pictures to her numbers, so she can look back and remember what she looked like when the baby was the size of a walnut.

With the QardioBase2, I had a healthy alternative to the dreaded decimal point. Its feedback is less judgy that others in its class, but the various functions and multi-user ease makes this a scale I’m happy to use all year. Instead of dreading weighing myself, I was actually … well, excited is too strong a word. But heavily invested.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hypersonic weapons to be fast-tracked by the Air Force

The Air Force is finishing engineering details on an aggressive plan to prototype, test, and deploy hypersonic weapons on an expedited schedule — to speed up an ability to launch high-impact, high-speed attacks at five times the speed of sound.

Recent thinking from senior Air Force weapons developers had held that US hypersonic weapons might first be deployable by the early 2020s. Hypersonic drones for attack or ISR missions, by extension, were thought to be on track to emerge in the 2030s and 2040s, senior service officials have told Warrior Maven.


Now, an aggressive new Air Force hypersonic weapons prototyping and demonstration effort is expected to change this time frame in a substantial way.

“I am working with the team on acceleration and I am very confident that a significant acceleration is possible,” said Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.”

The effort involves two separate trajectories, including the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon.

“The Air Force is using prototyping to explore the art-of-the-possible and to advance these technologies to a capability as quickly as possible. We continue to partner with DARPA on two science and technology flight demonstration programs: Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and Tactical Boost Glide,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

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A “boost glide” hypersonic weapon is one that flies on an upward trajectory up into the earth’s atmosphere before using the speed of its descent to hit and destroy targets, senior officials said.

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon effort involves using mature technologies which have not yet been integrated for air-launched delivery, Grabowski added.

“The ARRW effort will “push the art-of-the-possible” by leveraging the technical base established by the Air Force/DARPA partnership,” she said. “The two systems have different flight profiles, payload sizes, and provide complementary offensive capabilities.”

The Air Force recently took a major step forward in the process by awarding an HCSW prototyping deal to Lockheed Martin.

As the most senior Air Force acquisition leader who works closely with the services’ Chief of Staff, Roper was clear not to pinpoint an as-of-yet undetermined timeline. He did, however, praise the hypersonic weapons development team and say the particulars of the acceleration plan would emerge soon. Roper talked about speeding up hypersonic weapons within the larger context of ongoing Air Force efforts to streamline and expedite weapons acquisition overall.

Roper explained the rationale for not waiting many more years for a “100-percent” solution if a highly impactful “90-percent” solution can be available much sooner. Often referred to as “agile acquisition” by Air Force senior leaders, to include service Secretary Heather Wilson, fast-tracked procurement efforts seek quicker turn around of new software enhancements, innovations, and promising combat technologies likely to have a substantial near-term impact. While multi-year developmental programs are by no means disappearing, the idea is to circumvent some of the more bureaucratic and cumbersome elements of the acquisition process.

The Air Force, and Pentagon, need hypersonic weapons very quickly, officials explain, and there is broad consensus that the need for hypersonic weapons is, at the moment, taking on a new urgency.

A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
Artist concept of the Boeing X-51 Waverider.

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Along these lines, the advent of hypersonic weapons is a key reason why some are questioning the future survivability of large platforms such as aircraft carriers. How are ship-based sensors, radar and layered defenses expected to succeed in detecting tracking and intercepting or destroying an approaching hypersonic weapon traveling at five-times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.

A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what senior Air Force leaders called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of descent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target, senior weapons developers have told Warrior.

While Roper did not address any specific threats, he did indicate that the acceleration is taking place within a high-threat global environment. Both Russia and China have been visibly conducting hypersonic weapons tests, leading some to raise the question as to whether the US could be behind key rivals in this area.

“We are not the only ones interested in hypersonics,” Roper told reporters.

A report cited in The National Interest cites a report from The Diplomat outlining Chinese DF-17 hypersonic missile tests in November 2017.

During the tests – “a hypersonic glide vehicle detached from the missile during the reentry phase and flew approximately 1,400 kilometers to a target,” The Diplomat report states.

Also, Pentagon is fast-tracking sensor and command and control technology development to improve defenses against fast-emerging energy hypersonic weapons threats from major rivals, US Missile Defense Agency officials said in early 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time that the British conquered Manila

The Philippines is a diverse country that draws from an eclectic mix of cultures. Much of the Filipino culture and heritage was influenced by trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as occupation by foreign countries like Spain, America, and Japan. In the Philippines, you can eat Chinese rice noodles, hear Indonesian, Malay, and Spanish words in the same conversation, and ride a jeep that’s been converted into a public bus to visit WWII historical sites. However, most people would be surprised to learn that the Pearl of the Orient was once under the control of the British Empire.

The Seven Years’ War lasted from 1756-1763 (fighting in the Americas started in 1754 with the French and Indian War, but fighting didn’t begin in Europe until 1756). The conflict between the great European powers spanned the globe, making it the first true world war. During this time, the Philippines was a wealthy Spanish colony made famous by its grandeur and the Manila Galleon Trade. Eager to take a piece of this wealth, Britain planned an invasion of Manila with four store ships, three frigates, eight ships of the line, and 10,300 men.


The invasion force sailed from India and anchored in Manila Bay on September 23, 1762. Not expecting the European war to come to the Philippines, the 9,356 Spanish and Filipino defenders were caught off guard. Outnumbered and unprepared, the Spaniards enlisted the help of native Kapampangan warriors to resist the British invasion. The fighting was fierce, with the British firing more than 5,000 bombs and 20,000 cannonballs on the city. Spanish resistance did not last long and a formal surrender ended hostilities on October 6. The greatest Spanish fortress in the Western Pacific capitulated after just two weeks.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

A map depicting the British attack on Manila (Source: Library of Congress)

The Spanish defeat resulted in the sacking and pillaging of Manila. Houses and buildings were pillaged and burned, people were killed, tortured, and raped, and countless treasures were looted, lost, or destroyed. Not even the churches of the archbishopric in Manila were spared from the violence. To spare the city from further destruction, the British demanded a ransom of four million Mexican silver dollars which acting Governor-General Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra agreed to, preventing further loss of life.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

The British occupation of Manila (Source: The Filipinas Heritage Library)

With the help of the Kapampangan, Spanish forces retreated from Manila to the Bacolor, Pampanga where they established a new colonial capitol. There, the Spanish organized a resistance to contain the British invasion. An army of over 10,000, most of them natives, was raised for this cause. Although they lacked sufficient modern weapons, resistance forces managed to keep the British confined to Manila and Cavite.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

British troop movements during the Occupation of Manila (Source: Malacanang.gov.ph)

During its occupation of Manila, Britain took advantage of its location to increase trade with China. The British were unable to capitalize further on their conquest, since the Seven Years’ War ended with the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. That said, news of the peace agreement did not reach the Philippines until early 1764. The British ended their occupation, departing Manila and Cavite, in the first week of April 1764.

Over a century later, the Filipino nationalist and vocal opponent of Spanish occupation, Jose Rizal, lived in London from May 1888 to March 1889. He was astounded to find Filipino artifacts in the British Museum. Among the cultural treasures were the Boxer Codex (c. 1590) and a rare copy of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). According to Kirby Araullo, author and co-founder of the Busolan Center for Filipino Studies, the two artifacts are among the most important primary sources of early Philippine history.

The Spanish defeat was also a turning point for the Spanish Empire; it showed that Spain was no longer the dominant world power that it once was. The Spanish vulnerability emboldened many uprisings against Spanish occupation, including an ill-fated revolt by the national hero couple, Diego and Gabriela Silang. The Sultan of Sulu, a former Islamic state that controlled islands in the present-day southern Philippine Islands and north-eastern Borneo, was also freed from Spanish imprisonment during British occupation. He aligned with the British against the Spanish and increased pirate raids by the Sultanate of Sulu against Spanish colonies.

The Battle of Manila was a major military, political, and financial blow to the Spanish Empire. Although the British were unable to carry out a full conquest of the islands, the Spanish defeat was the catalyst for continued Filipino uprisings and resistance to Spanish occupation.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this rarely seen footage of the assault on Hamburger Hill

Hamburger Hill, also known as Hill 937, was a 10-day battle that was considered one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam war. The battle resulting in over 400 U.S. casualties and sparked controversy back home.


Dubbed Operation Apache Snow, the mission was to disrupt the North Vietnamese from penetrating Laos and cutting them off from access to the key cities of Da Nang and Hue.

General Melvin Zais, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, ordered allied forces to commence an assault on a well-fortified North Vietnamese 29th Regiment on May 10, 1969.

The hill was considered by many not to have any real significant military value.

Related: Rarely seen footage from the Battle of the Bulge

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
Soldiers from 101st Airborne carry a litter to retrieve one of the wounded brothers.

Both sides took heavy casualties during the fighting in the Ap Bia mountains, which includes heavy airstrikes, massive waves of artillery bombardments, and nearly of a dozen ground assaults. Most of the battle took place during the Vietnamese monsoons.

At one point, reports indicated a friendly-fire incident involving U.S. troops and the gunships that were meant to provide air support.

Also Read: Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

The battle that took place at Hill 937 was referred by reporters covering the story as “Hamburger Hill.” After the 10 brutal days of fighting, allied forces successfully secured the hill.

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films
U.S. troops positioned on the top of Hill 937.

Unfortunately, just five days after the U.S. claimed victory on the hill, troops abandoned the remote location, forcing many to wonder why so many died to take a hill that was abandoned shortly after victory.

The bloody attack was recreated and brought to the big screen in 1987’s “Hamburger Hill” directed by John Irvin.

Check out Caesar Built A Bridge Once’s video to see this intense Vietnam war combat footage for yourself.

CaesarBuiltABridgeOnce, YouTube
MIGHTY MOVIES

Military brat & Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins just announced ‘Rogue Squadron’

On Dec. 10, there were a lot of amazing announcements from Disney and friends, but one that stuck out the most to me was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins’ video for her upcoming feature film Rogue Squadron. I went into it blind, and if you haven’t watched it yet, then, well, you’re not precisely going in blind, but watch the video:

The video opens on Jenkins roller blading on what looks to be a flight line. She reaches her car and takes off her blades as she casually talks to the camera. 

“I love to move fast. I think that’s because I grew up the daughter of a great fighter pilot and every day I would wake up and go outside and look up and see my father and his squadron taking off in their F-4s, roaring across the sky and it was the most thrilling thing still I’ve experienced in my entire life,” Jenkins shares.

In 2017, her breakthrough hit film Wonder Woman grossed over $821 million worldwide, making it the tenth highest-grossing film of the year as well as the highest-grossing film by a solo female director (Captain Marvel, co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck earned $1.128 billion worldwide). The duo, and others, are proving with consistency that there’s a hunger for heroic content helmed by women.

“So when [my father] lost his life in service to this country, it ignited a desire in me to turn all of that tragedy and thrill in to making the greatest fighter pilot movie of all time.” Her father, William Jenkins, died during a NATO training exercise when she was seven years old, an event that naturally left a profound impression on her.

As her career has taken off (like, Emmy-nominated, Time Person of the Year nominated taken off), she searched for a story about flight — but couldn’t find the right one. Until now. 

“Now I found a movie about two things I love, so I’m going to see you very soon,” she hinted.

And with that, she donned an iconic orange rebel flight suit and helmet and walked to an X-Wing fighter. 

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Rogue Squadron will mark the first time a woman has directed a Star Wars film and, according to Luscasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, the movie will usher in a new era after the Skywalker saga and “introduce a new generation of starfighter pilots as they earn their wings and risk their lives in a boundary-pushing high-speed thrill ride. The legend of Rogue Squadron has been long beloved by fans and will move us into a future era of the galaxy.”

Rogue Squadron, named for the Rogue One squad that sacrificed themselves to procure the plans to the Death Star, is the starfighter squadron formed after the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s featured perhaps most prominently in the Rogue Squadron video game series.

“When the perfect story arrived in combination with another true love of mine, the incomparable world of Star Wars, I knew I’d finally found my next film. I’m extremely honored and excited to take it on, and grateful to Lucasfilm, Disney, and the fans for extending that thrill to me.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Prison inmates are training dogs for wounded warriors in record time

Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.


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America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.

“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”

How movie sets hide the fact that they’re firing blanks in films

Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.

“It amazed me,” he said.

But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.

“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”

Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.

“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”