4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike - We Are The Mighty
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4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

Much has been made of Russian and Chinese missiles – and they do warrant attention. But the submarine still remains a very deadly assassin. If anything, that danger has taken on new forms, as the crew of the South Korean corvette Cheonan found out in 2010.


So, how will these underwater assassins be prevented from carrying out their nefarious deeds? Here are four systems that were displayed by L3 Ocean Systems at SeaAirSpace 2017.

1. Firefly

The big problem many helicopters deal with is weight. Every pound for sensors is a pound that can’t be fuel or a weapon or a sonobouy.

At less than 400 pounds, the Firefly is a dipping sonar that can be used on much smaller helicopters – allowing someone who needs some coastal ASW to install it on more platforms than if it were a heavier sonar. Or, on the flip side, the helo that trades in a heavier dipping sonar for this lighter one gains more fuel, and thus, more range – or possibly an extra weapon, giving it an extra shot at an enemy sub.

Firefly can operate as deep as 656 feet of water, and can pick up a target almost 20 miles away. That’s not bad for this small package.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
An artist’s impression of a helicopter using L3 Ocean Systems’s Firefly dipping sonar. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

2. HELRAS

The Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar is used by nine separate navies, including Italy, Thailand, Greece, and Turkey. This sonar weighs 716 pounds – but it is also interoperable with the sonars on surface ships and the sonobouys dropped by other helicopters and maritime patrol planes.

It can operate at depths of up to 1,640 feet — meaning running silent and running deep won’t help a sub escape detection from this sonar. And once the sub is located… its captain will have an exciting – and short – time to ponder his situation.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
A helicopter uses the HELRAS dipping sonar. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

3. LFATS

Let’s face it – diesel-electric submarines are getting better and better. They are finding ways to operate without having to snorkel while charging their batteries. The batteries are getting better, and even cell phone battery technology is being leveraged for subs.

The solution is to do what they did in World War II – use active sonar to ping and find the submarine. The Low-Frequency Active Towed Sonar can do that – and can be placed on a vessel as small as 100 tons. It can operate at depths of up to 984 feet. In essence, in shallow water, there is no place for a sub to hide from this sonar. Not when every patrol boat can have one.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The Low Frequency Active Towed Sonar – or LFATS – can be used on boats as small as 100 tons. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

4. TB-23F

You might find it interesting that a towed-array for a submarine is on here, but the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines sometimes have to operate in shallow water where diesel boats can hide a lot more easily.

Able to operate at depths of over 1,000 feet at a speed of up to 12 knots, the TB-23F makes any submarine that tows it more capable when it comes to hunting the submarines of the enemy.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Submarines – even the Kilo depicted in this illustration – can get in the shallow-water ASW game with the TB-23F. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout).

So, while the submarine threat has gotten worse, a lot of works has been done on developing ways to find these underwater assassins before they can do harm to the valuable ships.

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Army, NFL scientists team up to develop injury-reducing neck tether

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The Rate-Activated Tether | U.S. Army photo


Army scientists, working with officials from the National Football League, have developed a wearable device that helps reduce head and neck injuries.

The Rate-Activated Tether, is a flexible strap that connects a helmet to shoulder pads or body armor, said Shawn Walsh of the Weapons and Material Research Directorate at Army Research Laboratory.

“What happens is if that when head is exposed to adverse acceleration, this RAT strap will basically transition into a rigid device that will transmit the load to the body, and it has been proven to significantly reduce acceleration,” Walsh told defense reporters at a recent roundtable discussion sponsored by Program Executive Office Soldier.

Over the years, the Defense Department has partnered with the NFL and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to research brain injuries. For example, the Army beginning in 2007 put blast sensors into tens of thousands of helmets to monitor head injuries from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon and NCAA in 2014 announced a joint study into concussions.

Army scientists are not sure if the device will eliminate Traumatic Brain Injury or concussions, but “we can say with some confidence that there is some benefit to reducing adverse acceleration,” Walsh said.

The device could help to prevent head injuries sometimes experienced by paratroopers, Walsh said.

“It is a known fact that paratroopers do experience head injuries,” he said. “They are trained to land very carefully, but sometimes at night, in the rain or in irregular terrain and something goes just a little off, they can land on their head,” he said. “There is some very real Army applications associated with that as well.”

Army officials also discussed more long-term science and technology initiatives such as a project to design robots that could one day deploy shields to protect soldiers in a firefight.

“Part of our job at the research center is to kind of try to push the Army out of its comfort zone,” Walsh said. “One of the things we are exploring now is robotics.”

An effort known as Robotic Augmented Soldier Protection is designed to shadow soldiers and deploy a protective shield when an attack occurs, Walsh said.

“A lot of people associate robotics with lethality, but what we are looking at is can we use robotics in a purely protective mode?” Walsh said. “Can we use these robotics to deploy protective mechanisms … that can work to protect a human?”

What is lacking right now is the science, Walsh said, adding that the Army is trying to work with the academic community on the effort.

Army officials that develop soldier requirements at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia are also interested in the concept, said Col. Curt “Travis” Thompson, director of the Soldier Division at Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manpower – Soldier.

“We are the closest touchpoint to the soldiers who are out in the field … but that doesn’t mean that we are the closest touch point to the realm of the possible or where we should be going,” he said. “We absolutely rely on ARL to kind of inform us to what is possible.”

The service’s leadership has shown interest in the effort, Walsh said.

“The Army is encouraging us; we were actually down at Fort Benning,” Walsh said. “They want to see more prototyping. They want to be introduced to these concepts as soon as possible.”

While still a fledgling effort, ARL does have a working prototype, he said.

“We are not saying that every soldier would have one,” Walsh said. “This is only useful in certain scenarios.”

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China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

The Chinese are illegally deploying missiles on at least one of its island bases in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.


According to recent analysis, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been deploying SA-21 “Growler” surface-to-air missiles. The system is also known as the S-400 Triumf, and is considered to be one of the most advanced Russian designs in the world.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The news of the deployment comes days after the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that China was building what appeared to be underground structures at three of their bases, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef. The Chinese bases are capable of supporting a number of aircraft, and serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers. China also has launched its first Type 55 destroyer, a vessel roughly comparable to the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers, and also deployed new maritime patrol aircraft to the disputed region.

China’s seizure of the uninhabited islands in the South China Sea was ruled illegal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year. The proceedings prior to the sweeping ruling, though, were boycotted by China, which has been aggressively asserting its nine-dash-line claims on the maritime flashpoint.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.

A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.

The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.

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6 ways the Army was the perfect primer for ‘Batman’

The whole world mourned June 9 at the news that Adam West, the Army veteran and actor who brought “Batman” to the silver screen, had died at the age of 88 after a battle with cancer.


Adam West was born, and drafted into the Army, as William West. In the military, he was in charge of standing up TV stations at San Luis Obispo, California, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. But if it seems odd that the star of a farcical show like the 1966 version of “Batman” got his start in the Army, it was actually the perfect way to prepare for such a ridiculous show.

Here are six reasons why:

1. Renaming everything to some arbitrary standard like “bat cuffs,” “bat time,” and “bat channel,” makes sense for anyone who has had to relearn names for Velcro, Duck Tape, and zipper

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Batman and Robin stand with their utility belts. (Photo: Greenway Productions, Public Domain)

Batman wore a bat belt that contained bat pills and bat cuffs which came in handy for the show that played twice a week at the same bat time, same bat channel. While all of that seems like nonsense to civilians, soldiers are used to fastening “hook and loop fasteners,” taping items down with “100 mph tape,” and securing their blouses with “slide fasteners and tab thongs.”

Those are ridiculous ways of referring to Velcro, Duck Tape, and zippers, which are all brand names that the Army can’t use in official doctrine. So young Billy West would have gotten used to using the Army names. It was probably easy to start calling everything “bat” later in life.

2. Dealing with a group of ne’er-do-wells like the “Batman” villains is old hat for anyone who has dealt with an Army squad

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The villains of the 1966 Batman film. From left to right, the Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, and Joker. (Photo: Greenway Production, Public Domain)

Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Archer, and other crazy villains were always hatching insane schemes in the Batman TV show. But, once again, the Army would’ve prepared the future Bruce Wayne for this.

Soldiers decide to get high with spice and bath salts? Yup, sounds about right. Troops smuggling liquor overseas by pouring it into Listerine bottles and mixing in food coloring? Seen it. Enlisted hijinks are basically Silver Age Batman ridiculous, just without the fancy gadgets and costumes.

3. Having to mentor a grown adult while treating them like a child is how all specialists deal with new privates

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
(Photo: flickr/BATMAN)

One of the more awkward truths about the Batman is that Robin, the Boy Wonder, was actually a 21-year-old man when the show began. The grown adult Adam West had to act like mentoring another grown man while treating him like a child wasn’t sort of weird.

But again, the Army is perfect preparation for this. After all, most specialists have only been in the military for a few years and they can be assigned responsibility of a private first class who has been in the Army a couple of years. So, 24-year-old  supervising 20-year-olds.

4. Spending all of your time with an attractive lady without giving in is easy for any NCO who had to ignore their co-ed lieutenant’s good looks

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Adam West’s Batman and Catwoman almost kiss. (Photo: YouTube/InnuMaccaband)

One of Batman’s greatest villains was Catwoman, who definitely had a thing going on with Batman. But Batman refused to give in to it (though he almost kissed her once, and a later incarnation of Batman ran off to Europe with her).

But any specialist or sergeant who has pulled overnight duty with an even moderately attractive officer knows what it’s like to weigh the consequences of “fraternization” over and over. Chances are, young and attractive Billy West had to say no to a few female sergeants and officers, or at least find the right place to give in without getting caught.

5. Only in the military and “Batman” can the little stuff be crucial during an emergency

This is a small one, but most organizations will let little things go during an emergency. But Batman doesn’t accept any of that crap from Robin. Proper grammar is important, and Batman corrects Robin even as Catwoman tries to get away on a rocket.

You know, just like a sergeant major yelling about gloves during a firefight or reflective belts during literally anything.

6. Working within made-up rules is easy for anyone who has dealt with UCMJ and Rules of Engagement

Batman runs into some pretty stupid bureaucratic problems during the show, like that time the Riddler sues Batman (while using riddles to explain his scheme, because of course he did) for false imprisonment and assault.

While the details of the case seem insane, Billy West probably sat through the Uniform Code of Military Justice briefing where soldiers are told they technically can’t engage in anything other than “missionary”-style sex because of Article 125.

Really think anyone who was briefed on Article 125 will be thrown for a loop by Gotham’s insane judges?

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Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

airaslt (powers w elders) A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.

“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.

It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.

Also Read: This Powerful Film Tells How Marines Fought ‘One Day Of Hell’ In Fallujah 

I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.

Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.

As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.

This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.

Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.

Take Jerry for example.

Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.

Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.

“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.

Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”

Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.

I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.

His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.

Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.

“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”

I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.

Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.

They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.

NOW: The Mighty Taps: 9 Famous Veterans Who Died In 2014

OR: Brigade Combat Team Is Headed To Iraq To Do Everything But Engage In Combat 

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Air Force jets will control small groups of drones

The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.


At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
US Air Force

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot.  As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
US Air Force

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the service’s carrier-launched F-35C will be the last manned fighter produced, given the  progress of autonomy and algorithms allowing for rapid maneuvering. The Air Force, however, has not said something similar despite the service’s obvious continued interest in further developing autonomy and unmanned flight.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
US Air Force

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SciFi loves nuclear hand grenades, but you’ll never get one

Ever since America figured out nuclear bombs, science fiction writers have flirted with all the different ways that nuclear weapons could work. But while lots of SciFi weapons have come to fruition, like drones and pain rays, the nuclear hand grenade will always be a weapon of fiction.


Fallout 76 Nuka Grenade

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The military worked hard to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, making both large, high-yield weapons, like thermonuclear bombs, as well as smaller weapons, like nuclear cannons and recoilless rifles.

Nuclear weapons, explained in fiction with a bunch of mumbo jumbo and explained in the real-world with language that feels the same, follow specific physical rules. To trigger a nuclear explosion, material that can undergo fission—meaning that its atoms can be split apart and release energy—have to be brought from below a critical mass to above a critical mass.

Basically, you have to have a bunch of material that you’ve kept separated, and then you have to collapse it quickly. Once enough fissionable material is in a tight enough space, it’ll explode. Going from subcritical to critical will cause a nuclear explosion, usually within a millionth of a second. Fusion weapons work by allowing a fission reaction to trigger a hydrogen fusion process.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

The Davy Crockett Bomb was a nuclear device delivered via recoilless rifle. While the warhead was about as small as it could be while reaching critical mass, the explosion was still large enough to give third-degree burns to everyone with 350 yards.

(U.S. Army)

And that brings us to why you’ll never see a nuclear hand grenade. You have to, have to, reach critical mass for the weapons to work. The minimum amount of nuclear material needed for a plutonium reaction is 11 pounds of weapons-grade material. That’s a heavy hand grenade. Even then, it requires a “neutron reflector,” a layer wrapped around the material that reflects any escaping neutrons back into the sphere. Graphite, steel, and other materials work for this purpose.

But that adds on more weight. A uranium weapon would be even worse, weighing in at 33 pounds plus its reflector. And that’s without accounting for the weight of the parts needed to keep the nuclear material compartmentalized until it’s time to set it off.

But even worse for the operator, these small amounts of nuclear material would have a devastating effect at much larger ranges than an operator could possible throw it. Take the W54 warhead placed on America’s lowest-yield nuclear missiles, the Davy Crockett bomb fired from a recoilless rifle and the AIM-26 air-to-air nuclear missile.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

A W54 warhead explodes after a Davy Crockett test shot. It’s the smallest warhead ever deployed and nearly the smallest warhead possible, and it still kills everything within a few hundred yards.

(YouTube/Jaglavaksoldier)

The W54 had approximately 50 pounds of uranium, about as small as you could get while still achieving critical mass. Even that small amount of material created an explosion with the same yield as 250 tons of TNT. Think you can throw a 33-pound grenade far enough to be safe from the 250-ton blast? Hint: You would need to throw it at least 350 yards just to avoid third-degree burns from radiation.

So, while the Fallout series lets you play with Nuka grenades and Star Wars features thermal detonators, real nuclear hand grenades will always be out of reach.

Sorry, everyone. But, the good news is that laser rifles have a real chance. Sweet.

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These Japanese men went from captives to war heroes

Approximately two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the war department to relocate thousands of Japanese and force them to live in internment camps — reportedly one-half were already U.S. citizens.


In Hawaii (which wouldn’t become an American state until 1959), more than one-third of the island’s population were first and second generation Japanese. They faced similar scrutiny as those living in the continental United States.

High ranking military advisors expressed concern with the Japanese currently serving in the armed forces because they believed their allegiance was with the enemy. This ideology caused many Japanese men and women to be relieved of their military duties.

Back in the States, many second-generation Japanese men, known as Nesei, detained in the internment camps wanted to show their devotion to the U.S. and decided to volunteer for military service.

Related: How the WW2 bomber Memphis Belle got its wings back

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Nisei men swearing in for military service.

Impressed with the Japanese volunteers, the war department created an all-Nisei combat unit — the 100th infantry battalion. After a year of intense infantry training, they first deployed to North Africa and then took part in attacks on enemy forces in Monte Cassino, Italy.

In 1943, the 100th was reorganized and became part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which included Nisei volunteers from Hawaii. The next year, they moved to the battlefields of France where they fought in eight major campaigns, and played a pivotal role the rescue the Texas 36th infantry division known as the  “Lost Battalion.”

The following year, the proud unit helped liberate the Jews from the first established Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany.

In the Pacific, several Nisei troops worked as Japanese translators and were frequently mistaken for enemy combatants.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
A Nisei troop discusses terms of surrender with a Japanese officer.

Also Read: This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men

Sadly, in the two years of their combat effectiveness, 700 members of the original 13,000 were killed or labeled as missing in action.

After their war had ended, the proud men returned home and were celebrated by President Harry Truman for their devoted service.

“You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice, and you won,” Truman addressed to the Nisei during a ceremony. “Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win.”

Altogether, the men received 9,486 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars, and 21 Medals of Honor.

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Here Is The Army’s Secret File On The Leader Of ISIS

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike


Relatively little is known about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). However, newly declassified military documents obtained by Business Insider on Wednesday reveal several new details about the ISIS leader.

The records come from time Baghdadi spent in US Army custody in Iraq. They were released through a Freedom of Information Act request. In these files, Baghdadi was identified by his birth name, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry.

There have been conflicting reports about the time Baghdadi spent as a US detainee. These files identify his “capture date” as Feb. 4, 2004 and the date of his “release in place” as Dec. 8, 2004. According to the records, Baghdadi was captured in Fallujah and held at multiple prison facilities including Camp Bucca and Camp Adder.

In the book “ISIS: Inside The Army of Terror,” Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan relay an account of Baghdadi’s capture from ISIS expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi. In the interview, al-Hashimi said Baghdadi was captured by US military intelligence while visiting a friend in Fallujah named Nessayif Numan Nessayif.

“Baghdadi was not the target — it was Nessayif,” said al-Hashimi, who consults with the Iraqi government and claims to have met the ISIS leader in the 1990s.

Baghdadi’s detainee I.D. card lists him as a “civilian detainee,” which means he was not a member of a foreign armed force or militia, but was still held for security reasons. His “civilian occupation” was identified as “ADMINISTRATIVE WORK (SECRETARY).” As of 2014, he was listed as being 43 years old though his birth date was redacted. Baghdadi’s birthplace was identified as Fallujah.

These records also provide some details about Baghdadi’s family. His file identifies him as married and his next of kin was an uncle. The names of his family members were redacted from the records.

View the Baghdadi files below. According to Army Corrections Command, some of the records requested by Business Insider remain classified. We are working to obtain all possible files from Baghdadi’s detention.

Baghdadi Detainee File

Baghdadi Detainee File 2

Baghdadi Detainee File 3

Baghdadi Detainee file 4

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Britain’s ‘Protector’ drone will rain Hellfire and Brimstone

The United Kingdom’s current drone fleet is made up primarily of aircraft purchased from the U.S.


But the country is now working on its own unmanned aerial vehicle dubbed “The Protector” which will feature specialized sensors and will be armed with Britain’s Brimstone missile, a low-collateral-damage version of America’s Hellfire missile.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
An illustration of the Protector drone carrying Brimstone missiles. (Illustration: MBDA Missile Systems)

The Protector drone is based on the Predator-B and is being created by the Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Britain owns 10 Reaper drones but was never able to fly them in European airspace. That’s because current drones don’t support certain devices required to fly in American and European civil airspace such as a detect-and-avoid system and an airborne “due regard” radar.

These upgrades would allow the drones to avoid collisions with other aircraft including human-piloted planes.

General Atomics is working on the required radar upgrades as part of the contract with the U.K., but the technology will also support U.S. projects like the MQ-4C, a surveillance UAS for the U.S. Navy.

Drones with collision avoidance systems would be able to legally fly in areas other unmanned aircraft can’t, such as the border regions between the rest of Europe and Russia.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
An illustration of the Protector drone under development for the United Kingdom. (Illustration: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.)

The Protector will also fly on longer wings that will increase its lift capacity as well as its maximum fuel and weapons payload. The design is a compromise which will lower the Protector’s maximum altitude — 45,000 feet versus 50,000 feet in the Predator B — and top speed — 200 knots versus 240 knots.

The other significant upgrade that the Protector will boast is the ability to carry Britain’s Brimstone missile.

The Hellfire is predominantly a laser-guided missile but one variant, the AGM-114L, features radar guidance instead of laser-guidance. Each Brimstone can be guided by either method, meaning pilots can determine the best targeting method in the air instead of having to decide when they load their weapons.

The Brimstone, manufactured by MBDA, is also designed to fly on fast jets and hit even fast-moving targets accurately.

It carries a 14-pound warhead that creates less collateral damage than the Hellfire’s 20-pound warhead, but that also limits its effectiveness against the main battle tanks the Hellfire was designed to kill.

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9 reasons why Texas hero Sam Houston might be the most awesome governor ever

Sam Houston is more than just the namesake for the fourth-largest city in America — the man is literally called the “George Washington of Texas.” And in the Lone Star State, that’s as close to God as one can get.


Here are a few reasons why the Texas hero Sam Houston owns the title “Governor of Governors.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Which I just gave him. Look at that hat and cane! Awesome.

1. He was actually governor of two states.

Houston was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827. He resigned as governor in 1829, a result of alcoholism and depression from his failed marriage. Thirty years later, he became the 7th governor of Texas.

2. He’s an American combat veteran.

Of course he is.  When the War of 1812 rolled around, he fought so well, Gen. Andrew Jackson took notice. Houston became a Jackson protégé and Jacksonian Democrat in his political years.

3. Sam Houston was adopted by the Cherokee Nation.

He spent much of his youth among Indians in Tennessee. Although he would come to have close ties with President Jackson, they probably differed on the treatment of the Cherokee. Houston took a Cherokee wife and was an honorary member of the tribe. His adopted name was “Black Raven.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
We can take a pretty good guess on how Jackson felt about the Cherokee.

4. His dueling mentor was Old Hickory himself.

Andrew Jackson was notorious for challenging and accepting duels. He participated in anywhere from 13 to 100 duels in his lifetime. Jackson was nearly killed in a duel in 1806 when he battled attorney Charles Dickinson and was shot within inches of his heart. Jackson plugged the wound with a handkerchief before killing Dickinson.

So he had a little bit of experience.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

Also Read: There was a time when duels ‘downsized’ the officer ranks

After Houston rigged the appointment of Nashville Postmaster away from John P. Erwin at Jackson’s request, Erwin challenged Houston to a duel. Houston refused, but when Gen. William White — veteran of the Battle of New Orleans — challenged him instead, the gunfight was on.

He practiced shooting at Jackson’s home. Old Hickory advised him to bite a bullet during the duel saying “It will make you aim better.”

Houston won the duel, shooting White in the groin.

5. He clubbed a congressman for accusing him of fraud.

Sam Houston, while a Congressman from Tennessee, felt slandered in a speech on the House floor. William Stanbery of Ohio, an anti-Jacksonian, accused Houston of fraud. Later that day, Houston saw Stanbery walking down the street and delivered a fierce beating. Stanbery even pulled a pistol on Houston, but it misfired.

6. His defense attorney was Francis Scott Key.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Yeah, that Francis Scott Key.

When Congress got wind of the epic beat-down Houston put on Stanberry, they charged him with assault and put him on trial. The eloquent Key argued the case with the Supreme Court acting as judges (no pressure) but still lost. Houston was fined $500 and left Washington in disgust, heading back home to Texas.

7. He beat the “Napoleon of the West” in eighteen minutes.

He didn’t fall into the trap of going in headfirst against Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army after the fall of the Alamo. Instead, Houston led a very George Washington-esque series of strategic retreats, giving his army time to regroup and congeal as a unit – and for more Texians to join his army. By the time he surprised Santa Anna on the banks of the San Jacinto, Houston was no longer outnumbered.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

It took 18 minutes for the Mexican Army to break and flee. But the Texians killed them for hoursHouston’s official report, numbered 630 Mexicans killed, 208 wounded, and 730 taken prisoner – including Santa Anna. The Texians lost just 11 men, with 30 (including Houston) wounded.

8. He was the first (and only) foreign head of state to be a U.S. governor.

His win at San Jacinto won Texas its independence as a republic. With Houston promptly elected as the first President of Texas with 80 percent of the vote. Once the Republic became a U.S. state, he would become one of its senators.

9. He refused to declare allegiance to the Confederacy.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Sam Houston is sick of your shit.

Houston opposed secession and traveled around Texas explaining why. He did not think it was good for Texas economically, militarily, or ethically. He didn’t think the rebels would win. Despite his opposition, a state convention met and voted to secede by a whopping 160 votes. Houston would not swear allegiance to the Confederate States and was ousted as governor of Texas.

The Union offered him a command, but he turned it down.

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Marine killed in Iraq ‘made sure everybody got in the bunker’

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The remains of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, Calif., arrive at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on March 21. | U.S. Air Force photo by Zachary Cacicia


The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.

Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.

Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.

“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”

During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.

“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”

In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.

“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”

Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.

About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.

“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”

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US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

The US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 1 recently arrived in the South China Sea to promote freedom of travel on the high seas, as China tightens its grip on the region with its increasingly potent navy.


The strike group includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, an entire destroyer squadron, and an additional Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

A US Navy carrier strike group represents one of the most powerful naval units in the world, and China has taken notice.

Related: What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.

But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.

The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
USS Ronald Reagan steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five and the Republic of Korea Navy during exercise Invincible Spirit, October 2016. | US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news

“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.

The US deployment to the South China Sea comes just days after Chinese warships withdrew from military drills in the region.

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