First, it was the Ice Bucket challenge then it was the Mannequin Challenge. Now, the Koala Challenge is going viral — and for good reason.
FITAID, a fitness beverage company, has challenged people to participate in the Koala Challenge to help raise money for the people, firefighters, and wildlife affected by the wildfires in Australia. For every video that is posted on social media of someone doing the challenge, the company will donate $5.
In the Koala Challenge, you must start by lying flat on your on top of a work out bench then shift your entire body to the underside of the bench without ever touching the floor. If done correctly, you will be hanging from the underside of the bench, looking just like a relaxed koala.
The challenge isn’t for everyone, as it does take a great deal of strength, but some have succeeded.
Others gave it their best shot.
Meanwhile, some partipants took a more creative approach.
Police in Tehran have fired tear-gas at a crowd of protesters who marched to the Iranian parliament on June 25, 2018, after swarming the city’s historic Grand Bazaar in anger over the country’s troubled economy.
The spontaneous protest erupted at the Grand Bazaar on the morning of June 25, 2018, after the black-market exchange rate for Iran’s rial currency fell by more than 10 percent in a single day despite moves by the government support it.
Video footage of the unfolding demonstration obtained by RFE/RL showed hundreds of angry demonstrators marching in and around the Grand Bazaar, forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls.
Shopkeepers who refused to do so were mocked by the crowd with the chant, “Cowards! Cowards!”
The protest came a day after demonstrators forced two major mobile phone and electronics shopping centers in the Iranian capital to close.
It was not immediately clear who led the protests. The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that traders gathered at the Grand Bazaar to protest “against recession,” exchange-rate fluctuations, declining demand from Iranian consumers, and rising prices.
But in videos obtained by RFE/RL, the crowd at the bazaar can be heard in Persian chanting “Leave Syria, think about us,” while some demonstrators shouted “Our enemy is here, not in the U.S.”
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported that the protest at the bazaar began in a clothing market and soon spread to other markets — including a relatively more modern area where home appliances are sold.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank Governor Valliollah Seyf on June 25, 2018, responded to the rapidly falling value of the rial by announcing plans to launch “a second foreign exchange market” next week to battle black-market currency traders.
Speaking after a meeting between President Hassan Rohani and officials from the Economy Ministry, Seyf said the parallel market would operate based on different exchange rates for the U.S. dollar.
He was quoted by Iranian media as saying a rate of 42,000 rials per dollar would be set for “importing essential commodities including medicine,” and that importers and exporters would “have to agree on the rate for importing non-essential goods.”
The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which is close to Rohani’s administration, reported on June 25, 2018, that a third exchange rate between 60,000 and 65,000 rials per dollar will be announced soon.
ISNA and the Mehr news agency also said that the state of confusion and ambiguity in the markets was reinforced by other officials who have spoken about plans for other foreign exchange rates.
The Tasnim news agency quoted the head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, as saying that the situation at the bazaar had calmed and that protesters’ demands were being “delivered through the chamber to the government.”
He made those remarks after the demonstrators — chanting “Don’t fear, don’t fear, we are all together” — marched to the Iranian parliament building.
As the crowd filed through the streets of the capital calling on others to join them, the size of the demonstration swelled into the thousands.
Similar economic demonstrations broke out across Iran at the end of 2017 and quickly spread to some 75 cities and towns — growing into Iran’s largest protests since unrest over the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Violence at those demonstrations, which continued into early January 2018, left 25 dead and nearly 5,000 people detained by authorities.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler stopped by the Pentagon in October 2018 to promote his upcoming movie “Hunter Killer” by speaking to the press about how he worked with the Navy to research his role as an submarine captain.
Among the details he revealed about his time aboard the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Houston at Pearl Harbor was a peculiar aspect of how a crew reacts after someone falls overboard.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but when you are doing a man overboard, rather than putting a man overboard, they throw a bag of popcorn into the water,” Butler told reporters.
“Then you spend the next — you have four minutes, because if you are in cold water, he’s not going to make it, and neither is the popcorn — because, actually, the bag breaks open,” he added. “So you spend the next four minutes maneuvering an 8,000-ton sub to try and get next to the popcorn so somebody can jump in and rescue it.”
There’s more than a kernel of truth to Butler’s anecdote.
Sailors stand watch on the conning tower of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee as it returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Feb. 6, 2013.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class James Kimber)
While it isn’t standard, most US submarines do use popcorn for man-overboard drills, Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, a public-affairs officer for the Navy’s Atlantic submarine forces, told Business Insider on Oct. 16, 2018.
The popcorn and the bag it comes in are biodegradable. The bag, once the popcorn is popped, is also about the size of the human head and equally hard to see when its bobbing in the ocean, Self-Kyler added. It will also float for a short period, usually less than 10 minutes, and disappear, adding time pressure to the exercise.
Sometimes crewmen will tape two bags together, but once the popcorn is away, Self-Kyler said, it “most accurately represents what a man overboard looks like from a submarine.”
Though different subs will handle things differently, such drills are typically only done while entering or exiting port, as that is generally the only time subs are surfaced. Many crew members have to be involved to carry it out.
Sailors point to “Oscar,” a training dummy, during a man-overboard drill aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence, June 22, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jessica O. Blackwell)
The popcorn, usually pulled from the sub’s general inventory, is popped in a microwave then sent to the top of the conning tower, where it gets thrown overboard.
At that point, Self-Kyler said, sailors on watch will shout that a man has fallen overboard and crew members in the control room will mark its location.
It then becomes the job of navigators and sub drivers on duty to steer the boat back to the location where the popcorn went overboard, “work[ing] together to pinpoint that location.”
Above deck, watch-standers have to keep their eyes on and fingers pointed at the popcorn the whole time, so as to stay focused on the very small object as the submarine manuevers to come back alongside it.
“Every watch-stander is required to be qualified on this kind of operation,” Self-Kyler said. They “have to show the captain they can drive the ship back to that bag of popcorn.”
A sailor throws “Oscar,” a man-overboard training dummy, off the port side of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan during a man-overboard drill, Jan. 14, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford)
In the event of a real man-overboard, the submarine would also send out an alert to all mariners in the area, telling them via a radio call to keep an eye out for a sailor in the water and relaying their last known position. The sub’s crew would also be mustered for a roll call to identify the missing crewman.
Bags of popcorn aren’t the only things submariners use for man-overboard exercises. They can also use cardboard boxes, Self-Kyler said, though whatever they use also has to be biodegradable. There are also specialized floats or mannequins that sailors use for search-and-rescue drills.
Navy ships do not use popcorn in their man-overboard drills, Jim DeAngio, a spokesman for the Navy’s Atlantic surface forces command, said in an email.
“They primarily use what is referred to as a ‘smoke float,’ a canister that, when dropped into salt water, activates itself,” De Angio added. “It floats and smokes and provides an object to target for rescue.”
A sailor going overboard is not a common occurrence, but it does happen.
A Navy search-and-rescue swimmer rescues “Oscar” and brings him back to the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, July 15, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class David A. Cox)
“In a man overboard situation, obviously, we want to recover the sailor as quickly and efficiently as possible,” DeAngio said.
A decade ago, the Navy introduced a Man Over Board Indicator for the float coats sailors working on deck are required to wear. A transmitter in the coat, a receiver in the ship’s pilot house, and a directional finder on a rigid-hull inflatable boat deployed to pick up the sailor were to be used in conjunction to make the rescue process a matter of minutes.
Aircraft carriers, which have open flight decks and carry more crew members than other Navy ships, have nets along the deck to catch sailors before they hit the water. They don’t always work though.
Peter von Szilassy, an airman on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2002, was blown by a jet blast in a bomb-disposal chute, one of the only areas without a safety net. He fell 90 feet into the Persian Gulf and was sucked toward the ship’s 66,000-pound propeller. But he was able to swim free and was picked up with little more than bruises.
Navy search-and-rescue swimmers go through rigorous training to be able to pluck sailors out of the water within minutes — a life-or-death time limit when the sea is freezing.
“When the three whistle blasts are broadcasted you have to be out there. It’s not about you. It’s about the person in the water,” Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Adam Tiscareno said in 2018.
“Whoever is out there, it’s their worst day. They don’t know if they’ll make it back.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army’s helicopters have a number of names you recognize immediately: Apache, Black Hawk, Kiowa, Lakota, Comanche. They are also known as the names of Native American tribes. This is not a coincidence.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, this was originally due to Army Regulation 70-28, which has since been rescinded. Today, while the regulation is gone, the tradition remains, and there is a procedure to pick a new name. The Bureau of Indian Affairs keeps a list of names for the Army to use. When the Army gets a new helicopter (or fixed-wing aircraft), the commanding officer of the Army Material Command (the folks who buy the gear) comes up with a list of five names.
Now, they can’t just be any names. These names must promote confidence in the abilities of the helicopter or plane, they cannot sacrifice dignity, and they must promote an aggressive spirit. Those names then have to be run by the United States Patent Office, of all places. There’s a lot more bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to go through, but eventually a name is picked.
Then comes something unique – the helicopter or aircraft is then part of a ceremony attended by Native American leaders, who bestow tribal blessings. You might be surprised, given that the Army and the Native Americans were on opposite side of the Indian Wars – and those wars went on for 148 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Don’t be. The fact is, despite the 148 years of hostilities, Native Americans also served with the United States military. Eli Parker, the only Native American to reach general’s rank, was a personal aide to General Ulysses S. Grant. Most impressively, 25 Native Americans have received the Medal of Honor for heroism.
In other words, the Army’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft bear names that reflect fierce and courageous warriors who also have fought well as part of the United States Army. That is a legacy worth remembering and honoring with some of the Army’s most prominent systems.
Everyone has a different way of passing the time during deployments. Some people work their way through seasons on Netflix, some CrossFit their way to a better physique, while others pursue academic goals. For Green Beret Nate Boyer, it was watching YouTube videos and practicing those skills that helped him chase his dream of becoming a professional football player.
In Sunday’s Super Bowl commercial, we see the journey of Nate Boyer. Following his service in the Army, Boyer wanted to go to college and to be a starter on the Texas Longhorns football team.
There was only one tiny wrench in his plan: he had never played football.
Boyer was told he was “too small, too slow, too old. Nobody wants a 30-year-old rookie on their team.” But just ask Boyer: he’s no ordinary rookie. Following tryouts, Boyer learned that there would be a starting position open as a long snapper for the Longhorns.
“I didn’t even know what a long snapper was,” he said.
Boyer learned and honed the skills through YouTube and watched as his dreams came true:
No one wants to be a buzz kill. That’s the soft social put down we use to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation or even harder — a self-reflection about alcohol. A topic that has a longstanding relationship with the military community in both good ways and bad.
In InDependent’s bold new series “Wellness Unfiltered” they’re going there, into the harder to uncomfortable spaces military wellness typically shies away from in hopes to support the community and stand together to face tough topics.
Justine Evirs, a social entrepreneur, Navy veteran and Navy spouse is not what you would picture as the face of someone struggling with alcohol. In fact, that’s exactly the reason Evirs decided to step up. “There’s no representation here, not as a veteran, as a woman or minority,” she said candidly. “I’m not homeless. I am a mother, a recognized leader and for a long time didn’t see myself as having any issue until I became more familiar with the four stages of alcoholism,” Evirs said, who in the series breaks down the four stages through her own story and provides educational resources and facts.
On the other microphone is Kimberly Bacso of InDependent who explains the goal of the four-part series is to, “present a non-victimizing approach to give the community the tools we need to both destigmatize and recognize what this looks like.”
“Through this exposure we can now be there for each other, even in simple ways like providing attractive non-alcoholic options at gatherings,” Bacso said. InDependent’s approach to wellness as a wider, holistic standpoint really lends itself to tackling and supporting spouses in this space.
Not having a true picture of what healthy drinking looks like was one component of the larger issue for Evirs, who explained she spent years in stages one and two. “There are different stages and different types of alcoholics. With this conversation, my hope is that we can start asking ourselves why we’re drinking — is it to manage stress? And further, to look at our current drinking relationship from a longevity standpoint — will this be ok in five to 10 years?”
In case you’re curious, the lines between stages are not DUIs, arrests or an unmanageable life. The changes are subtle, and depending on the social company you keep, can go unrecognized or become “normalized” through a skewed perception.
Fear was definitely an inhibitor for Evirs, who admits she feared not only the stigma of this label for herself but the impact it may have on her husband’s career also. “Addiction leads to loneliness, something we already have enough of as military spouses,” Evirs said.
To make recognition worse, Evirs explains that the disease remains largely self-diagnosed. Fear, shame and an unhealthy media portrayal of healthy drinking patterns have shrouded this taboo topic for far too long.
What we love about the series is how it comes across as authentic and is hosted within the safe space of InDependent’s blog and Facebook community. “The series is embedded with links where anyone can find resources as well as the entire four-part conversation well after we’ve streamed them live,” Bacso said.
So, what’s the takeaway here no matter where you identify at any stage of the spectrum? Empowerment and the forward motion of the entire military community. “Even if this is not you, I’m willing to bet you know someone who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol,” Evirs said.
Here’s to an informed and healthy future. In part two, Evirs explains how perspective has changed how she views the “bonding” that is associated with drinking. Are we really connecting over our talents and who we are as people, or is it the drinks?
We’re looking forward to connecting to a changing culture, no matter what is in your hands.
Spinoffs are a curse of entertainment. Any successful TV series soon spawns one or two others that are of suspect quality and have a vague connection to the original. For instance, the overwhelmingly popular Friends led to the creation of the underwhelming Joey. AfterMASH tried (and failed) to piggyback off of the successes of M*A*S*H.
But did you know warships also generate spinoffs? In fact, Russia pulled off a one-of-a-kind spinoff from one of its most successful ships.
The Russian navy destroyer ADM Chabanenko (DD650), right, moves past the French navy frigate FS Ventose (F733) while getting underway during the 2011 FRUKUS (French, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) event.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marie Brindovas)
The Udaloy-class destroyers were built for protecting high-value assets, like Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers, from NATO submarines. Udaloy-class vessels carried two 100mm guns, two quad SS-N-14 Silex launchers, 64 SA-N-9 Gauntlet point-defense surface-to-air missiles in eight eight-round launchers, four quad 53mm torpedo tube mounts, and four AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The destroyer could also operate two Ka-27 Helix anti-ship helicopters.
The Russian navy destroyer RFS ADM Chabanenko (DD 650) fires the AK-130-MR-184 130 mm gun at a distant target during a gunnery exercise as part of the at-sea phase of FRUKUS 2011.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Darren Moore)
That’s some serious firepower — a submarine captain would have some trepidation having to take those on. But the Udaloy was a little weak in one crucial area: fighting surface ships. The SS-N-14 and the 533mm torpedoes could be used against ships, but they were primarily intended to hunt subs. In short, the Udaloy was out-ranged by the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was in service with U.S. Navy three years before the first Udaloy was commissioned. So, in 1989, the Soviet Union laid down what they hoped would be the answer to this shortcoming.
Despite plans to build several, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union would leave this vessel as the only one of its kind. The Admiral Chabanenko underwent a lengthy construction process — it took ten years to be commissioned. For this ship, the Soviets turned to the Udaloy’s contemporary, the Sovremennyy, as a baseline. The Admiral Chabanenko replaced the two 100mm guns with a twin 130mm gun mount, the quad SS-N-14 mounts were replaced with quad SS-N-22 Sunburn launchers, and the four AK-630s were replaced with CADS-N-1 close-in weapon systems.
Since before the days of Harry Truman, it was a Presidential Thanksgiving tradition: a plump bird was presented to the President himself at the White House every year. Every year, the President happily accepted. From 1873 through 1913, these turkeys even came from the same Rhode Island farm. It became a national tradition in Truman’s days. Since then, each President, spanning more than 50 years, delighted at the annual photo op along with fans of the traditions of the nation’s highest office.
Until 1989, that is, when President George H.W. Bush decided Tom Turkey looked a little nervous.
It was an honor for a Turkey farm to be the one to provide the White House with its annual turkey dinner. In the 1920s, the turkey presented to President Warren G. Harding traveled the country in a specially-constructed battleship turkey crate. Subsequent Presidents were sent turkeys from farms and civic groups from across the country. Places like the Minnesota Arrowhead Association, the Poultry and Egg National Board, and the National Turkey Federation were only too eager to send the Presidential mansion their best champion turkeys.
Only sporadically did Presidents pardon their turkeys before President Bush did in 1989, and it never became the tradition as we know it today. As the President received the annual gift, shouts from picketing animal rights activists could be heard nearby. Bush, acknowledging the turkey looked a little nervous gave a pardon so complete it is echoed every year since:
“Let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy. He’s granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”
Other Presidents have spared their turkeys. On Nov. 18, 1963, President Kennedy was the first to spare a turkey’s life. It was a spontaneous act. Nixon spared a few of his. Rosalyn Carter had all the Carter’s turkeys sent to a petting zoo, as did Ronald Reagan. But it was Reagan who first used the term “pardon” to spare the life of the turkey. At the time, the media was speculating over whether or not the President would issue a pardon for Col. Oliver North for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair. Reagan, with his trademark wit, used the term to deflect questions about the incident.
The turkeys set for President Trump to pardon in 2019 are named Bread and Butter. Fast-forward to 43:00 to watch the 2018 Presidential pardon.
It can carry six large rockets and hurl them 90 miles against enemy targets, raining death and destruction on America’s enemies that can slaughter entire enemy units in one fierce volley. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has real teeth, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as the Romanian and Polish militaries, are about to get a lot more of them.
And HIMARS really is highly mobile. Not only can it drive itself onto the battlefield from a base or depot, but it can also ride on planes as small as the C-130, drive off the back, and get right into the fight. The Marine Corps actually practiced using HIMARS in “air raids” where a transport plane delivered a launcher to a forward airbase, and then the crew rapidly prepared and fired the weapon.
Alternatively, they can carry a single Army Tactical Missile System. This bad boy can fly over 180 miles and packs a 500-pound warhead. The missile made its combat debut in Desert Storm. The U.S. won that one. We’re not saying that it happened because of the ATACMS, but the math adds up.
With increased HIMARS capability in NATO, it would be much more complicated for Russia to invade. And if it did another destabilizing mission like it’s still doing in the Donbas region of Ukraine, HIMARS would still be pretty useful. Those Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have proven pretty reliant on Russian artillery, and the extra range and precision of HIMARS would allow them to hit back with pinpoint accuracy while out of Russian range.
Too bad for Ukraine that it’s not part of this contract.
A merchant vessel burns after being torpedoed by the U-71 off Cape Hatteras, NC in March 1942.
Imagine the following scenario: A bloody war rages overseas as a fanatical, totalitarian ideology conquers entire countries. The U.S. government announces it will send military forces abroad to stem the tide of the aggression. Despite increasingly dire news headlines, however, life in America proceeds uneventfully.
After all, America is thousands of miles from the battlefields and surely far beyond the enemy’s immediate reach.
That sense of security abruptly ends only weeks later when the enemy suddenly launches a fearsome assault against the U.S. homeland itself. Thousands die as American cities witness explosions and raging infernos. Worse yet, the U.S. military seems powerless to stop the assault.
If that story sounds far-fetched, it shouldn’t. It isn’t the plot of Call of Duty– the scenario described above actually happened during World War II. December 1941 saw the U.S. finally join the war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. Many Americans understandably assumed that geography insulated them from any direct threat.
However, while U.S. leaders in Washington debated how to deploy their forces overseas, Adolf Hitler made the first move. In January 1942, Hitler’s forces began a massive naval offensive against the U.S. east coast.
The German navy, or Kriegsmarine, lacked a formidable surface fleet. What the Kriegsmarine did possess, however, was a technologically and tactically sophisticated submarine force: the infamous unterseeboots, or “U-boats.”
The U-boats had proven deadly in World War I, to include a limited number of attacks near the U.S. east coast, but the scale of the U-boat offensive against America in 1942 was without precedent. Only weeks after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, war had come to the American homeland.
Rendition of the U-995
(oil painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau)
Cargo ships and even U.S. Navy warships began going down in flames. Many vessels were torpedoed within sight of coastal cities. Coastal residents saw the ships burning off the Jersey Shore and the Outer Banks. Debris and bodies washed ashore for months as the U-boats struck from New England to Texas.
U-boat commanders returning to port in occupied Europe reported that U.S. waters offered more targets than the U-boats had the means to attack. The easy hunting lead German crews to dub 1942 die glückliche zeit: “the happy time.”
(Alamy Stock Photos)
Compounding the fear and destruction was America’s apparent inability to stop it. A combination of factors limited the U.S. military’s ability to stop the U-boats. These included a shortage of warships suited to anti-submarine operations, a lack of convoy procedures, and a reluctance to implement nighttime blackouts of coastal cities to deny U-boat commanders the benefit of ship silhouettes to target.
While U.S. leaders debated how to stem the onslaught, the Kriegsmarine dispatched more waves of U-boats to North America. Hundreds of ships were sunk, and thousands died as desperately needed war material was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic.
The U-123, one of the German subs that prowled the American coast in 1942.
(German Federal Archives)
Fortunately, 1942 would prove to be the apex of Hitler’s U-boat assault against America. The Allies began implementing convoys, and more American air and naval assets were allocated to anti-submarine duties.
These changes eventually led the Kriegsmarine to shift its priorities away from American coasts towards the mid-Atlantic. U-boats would continue to strike in American waters until the end of the war, but the scope and effectiveness of their operations steadily decreased. U-boat losses mounted too as the hunters eventually became the prey.
The U-boat fleet, considered one of the most prestigious assignments for a German serviceman, ultimately suffered the German military’s highest casualties: 3 out of 4 U-boat crewmen did not survive the war.
The crew of the U-550 abandons ship after being crippled by a U.S. Coast Guard attack off Massachusetts in April 1944.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
U.S. waters today are littered with the wrecks of U-boats and their victims. Many of these wrecks have become popular sites amongst scuba divers. This chapter of World War II, however, has mostly disappeared from American public memory.
This is to our discredit, as the memory of Hitler’s naval assault against America bears several important lessons for a post-9/11 world. These lessons include the naiveté of assuming that large oceans can be counted on to deter foreign aggression and a sobering reminder of what a small but motivated and capable force can inflict on a much larger power.
The thousands of men lost during this forgotten campaign is a testament to the human cost of global conflict and its ramifications for national security in the 21st century.
China claims it’s winning the race to bring long-range superguns to its growing fleet, but experts say that even if these weapons work, they won’t make a difference in high-end conflict.
China announced it will “soon” be arming its warships with railguns, a technology which uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther than conventional guns and at seven or eight times the speed of sound. The US Navy has spent more than a decade pursuing this technology, but naval affairs experts contend that even the best railguns have huge problems that make them a poor substitute for existing capabilities.
“You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former US Navy officer, told Business Insider.
The Chinese navy made headlines when images of a Chinese ship equipped with a suspected railgun first surfaced in January 2018. Photos showed the vessel, initially nicknamed the “Yangtze River Monster,” docked on the Yangtze River at a shipyard in Wuhan. That same ship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — reappeared in late December 2018, having possibly set sail for sea trials.
“This is one of a number of interesting developments that indicates that the [People’s Liberation Army] is quite enthusiastic about emerging capabilities,” Elsa Kania, an expert on the Chinese armed forces at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider.
The Chinese PLA is actively looking at the military applications of cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. China actually launched the first quantum communication satellite, which is said to be unhackable. For the Chinese navy, this means research into electromagnetic railguns, among other capabilities.
China says it has made major ‘breakthroughs’ with railguns
“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made … in multiple sectors,” China’s Global Times reported recently, citing state broadcaster CCTV. The notoriously nationalist tabloid proudly asserted that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
China is expected to begin fielding warship-mounted electromagnetic railguns with the ability to fire high-speed projectiles as early as 2025, CNBC reported in summer 2018, citing US defense sources with direct knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on China’s railgun development.
Chinese military experts expect the new Type 055 stealth destroyers to eventually be armed with electromagnetic railguns.
‘It’s not useful military technology’
While conventional guns rely on gunpowder to propel projectiles forward, railguns use electromagnetic force to hurl projectiles at targets downrange at incredible speeds.
China is not the first country to take an interest in railgun technology. The US Navy took a serious look at the possibility of arming warships with the gun, which promised the ability to strike targets as far as 200 miles away with relatively inexpensive rounds traveling at hypersonic speeds.
During the development process, the US military discovered problems that make the gun more of a hassle than an asset.
“The engineering challenges that the US is seeing with railguns are fundamental to the technology,” Clark, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told BI. “Any railgun is going to have these problems.”
While still cheaper than a missile, the rounds are more expensive than previously expected, as they require more advanced guidance systems to ensure that a simple GPS jammer doesn’t render them inoperable.
The rounds are more powerful than standard 5″ gun projectiles, but still lack the destructive power of missiles, making them less effective in strike missions. Missiles are also able to can chase down targets.
Even if each railgun shot packs a punch, its limited rate of fire — maybe eight rounds per minute — means it has little use for air and missile defense against fast-moving targets.
Maintenance and electricity generation are also huge problems. The gun requires an enormous amount of power to fire and the shear force of firing hypervelocity projectiles tends to wear out the barrel quickly. The barrel would likely need to be replaced after every few dozen shots, a problem that likely limits the gun to one short battle.
“They’re not a good replacement for a missile,” Clark said. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”
“It’s not useful military technology,” he added.
Facing a handful of difficult-to-overcome challenges inextricably linked to railgun technology, the US Navy has slow-rolled its railgun development.
The US Navy has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade researching railgun technology, and research continues despite development setbacks.
“They are thinking that down the road they will eventually get some technological breakthroughs that would enable it to be more militarily useful,” Clark explained. “That is why they are continuing to invest in it rather than dropping it entirely.”
During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Navy successfully test-fired hypervelocity projectiles meant for electromagnetic railguns out of the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers. The Army is looking at using the same high-speed rounds for its 155 mm howitzers.
So far, it appears the most beneficial thing to come out of US railgun research is the round.
For China, it’s a PR victory
China, which will likely encounter issues similar to those the US Navy has run into, is potentially continuing its railgun development for another purpose entirely.
“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Clark told BI. “It is always in the details that they sometimes fall a little bit short.”
“It’s a useful prestige thing for them, which is similar to other military systems they’ve fielded recently where it looks cool but it maybe isn’t all that militarily useful,” he further remarked, comparing China’s railgun pursuits to the J-20 stealth fighter, which lacks some of the features required to make it a true fifth-generation aircraft.
“The US has found that a working railgun, even if it met all the promise of a railgun system, is going to have very limited utility in strike or air defense,” Clark concluded, explaining that this technology is a tool which advances the narrative that China is a formidable force.
The Chinese military wants to demonstrate that it is on the forefront of next-level technology.
The Chinese military, like the US, may also derive new capabilities from its railgun research
One other program the Chinese are very interested in are building modern aircraft carriers. The Chinese navy has one carrier in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third mystery carrier in development.
While the first and second rely on ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, their is speculation that the third aircraft carrier could employ the much more effective electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system.
“The same program that’s working on railguns at the naval engineering university has also been involved in their development of electromagnetic catapult system for their next-generation aircraft carrier,” Kania told Business Insider.
“The Chinese military has often intended to explore advanced technologies, including those that the US has deemed less relevant operationally because there is enthusiasm about next-generation capabilities and it wants to understand the art of the possible,” she added.
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It’s easy to poke fun at the movies that screw up a portrayal of life in the military. Hell, most veterans and troops make drinking games out of just uniform errors alone — and that’s not even touching plot holes or the nonsensical dialogue.
But this isn’t that list. These films got the tiny details right. In fact, in addition to perfectly executed one-liners, these films get many things right.
1. A large portion of troops only enlisted for the benefits.
“Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir.” – Anthony Swofford, Jarhead (2005)
“We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A.’ You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw ‘Old Yeller?’ Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end? I cried my eyes out. So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army.” – Pvt. Winger, Stripes (1981)
China is touting its improved aircraft carrier capabilities, but one of the biggest obstacles to having the world’s second-most powerful carrier fleet remains its troubled carrier-based fighter — the J-15 Flying Shark.
Striving to build a blue-water navy suitable for global operations, China expects to have four operational carrier battle groups within the next decade. China already has one active carrier, another undergoing sea trials, and another one in development. Experts speculate that while the first two appear to be limited in their combat capabilities, the third carrier could be a “huge step forward.”
In several state media publications, China cheered its carrier-based fighter jet force for achieving “breakthroughs” since its establishment a little over five years ago. Chinese media said Navy pilots have qualified to take off and land the J-15 fighter on the Liaoning, China’s first and only active aircraft carrier. “An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Wednesday.
The Global Times ran a video Thursday of Chinese J-15s conducting night operations from the deck of the Liaoning carrier.
The J-15 is far from the most suitable aircraft for carrier operations though. Not only is the plane considered too big and too heavy, with an unarmed take-off weight of 17.5 tonnes as compared to the US F/A-18 Super Hornet’s 14.6 tonnes, but it can be rather unreliable. Problems with the aircraft, especially the flight control systems, are believed to be behind several fatal training accidents, the Asia Times reported.
The weight issues really come into play on a ship like the Liaoning, which uses a ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch system. This system — as opposed to steam or electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch systems used on US carriers — strains the aircraft and tends to force reductions in operational range, payload size, and sortie frequency.
The J-15, a reverse engineered version of a Soviet-era prototype, is rumored to be getting a new engine, which could boost its capabilities, but a new carrier-based fighter will eventually be necessary. China is reportedly considering replacing the fourth-generation fighter jets with a lighter and more capable aircraft. Nonetheless, Chinese military experts expect the J-15 to “remain the backbone of China’s carrier battle groups in the future,” according to the South China Morning Post.
The J-15 Flying Shark.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the J-15 is the lack of them. As production and deployment rates are low, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army reportedly has only 30-40 of these fighters. The Liaoning needs 24 to form a full combat-ready fighter squadron, and the soon-to-be-commissioned second carrier will need roughly the same amount to stand up a fighter wing.
“As a big power, China needs more carrier-based warplanes to support its naval ambitions, especially with its first home-grown aircraft carrier entering the final phase of sea trials and likely to go into service next year,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told SCMP.
As China works to build up its naval fleet and expand its capabilities, especially those of its carriers, China will need to overcome challenges, such as number of trained pilots, power and propulsion issues, launch system problems, and limited experience with carrier operations.
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