The 60th Maintenance Squadron is the first field unit in the Air Force to be certified with an industrial-sized 3D printer that is authorized to produce nonstructural aircraft parts.
The Stratasys F900 3D printer, which is capable of printing plastic parts up to 36-by-24-by-36 inches, uses a material called Ultem 9085 that is more flexible, dense and stronger than typical plastic.
The printer, which is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center, offers new opportunities to create needed parts while saving time and money.
“It brings us a capability that we’ve never had before,” said Master Sgt. John Higgs, 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section chief. “There’s so many possibilities available to us right now. We’re just scratching the surface.”
Technicians are able to download blueprints from an online database that the University of Dayton Research Institute has approved.
A Stratasys F900 3D printer prints aircraft parts, Aug. 15, 2019, Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“The Joint Engineering Data Management Information Control System is where we go to download already approved blueprints,” Higgs said. “Now, the University of Dayton Research Institute is working with the engineers to get those parts they developed into JEDMICS.”
The first approved project was printed on the Stratasys F900 Aug. 12, 2019, and will replace latrine covers on the C-5M Super Galaxy. Typically, parts that don’t keep the aircraft from performing their mission don’t have as high as a priority for replacement.
“The latrine covers we just printed usually take about a year from the time they’ve been ordered to the time they’ve been delivered,” Higgs said. “We printed two of the covers in 73 hours.”
Getting the printer operational was no easy task. It took eight months to get the system fully operational.
“There were facility requirements that had to be met, and then installation and certification processes to complete,” Higgs said. “After, we needed to decide who could operate the printer, then have a UDRI instructor certify them.”
Three members from the 60th MXS were chosen to be the first technicians trained in the Air Force for the initial certification. One of them, Tech. Sgt. Rogelio Lopez, 60th MXS assistant aircraft metals technology section chief, has been with the project since its inception.
Latrine covers, the first aircraft parts authorized for use after being printed on the Stratasys F900 3D printer are on display Aug. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“UDRI has not trained or certified anyone else at the field level except the three of us here at Travis Air Force Base,” Lopez said. “Now that we’re signed off on our training records, we’re the only ones who can operate, maintain and print on the Stratasys F900.”
Now with parts in production, all the hard work is paying off. There’s a new sense of urgency within the organization.
“It’s exciting because the Air Force is implementing new technology at the field level,” Lopez said. “The Air Force continues to encourage airmen to be innovative by finding new ways to streamline processes and save resources.”
And since Travis AFB is the only field unit that is currently operational, requests from outside the organization are already coming in.
“We already have a list from the Air Force level to help them print and to backfill some supplies,” Higgs said. “This will ensure other bases can replace items sooner than expected with our help.”
Ultimately, the maintenance shop wants to use the printer for more than just aircraft parts.
“We have the capability to print parts on a production scale for a lot more customers,” Higgs said. “The overall goal is to generate products for every organization to support whatever needs they may have.”
The first all-female team to compete in the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition at Aviano Air Base, Italy, took home the win, the Air Force announced last week. And they did it while wearing costumes that paid tribute to Rosie the Riveter.
The RAGE contest began last October to highlight several adaptive basing procedures and is being held quarterly. Last year, a team named “Wing it” won.
The Bouncing Bettys, the six-airman team that won Jan. 7, 2020, was from the 31st Munition Squadron and the 731st Munition Squadron. The team members overcame six evaluated events: a written test, stockpile practices, trailer configuration, trailer re-configuration, 463L palletization and a weapons build.
Senior Airman Audrey M. Naputi, a munition inspector from the 731st Munition Squadron, sits and prepares for the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition to begin at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2020.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
One of the competitions had them conduct an inert bomb build.
Named after M16 land mines, the team was made up of two munitions inspectors, two stockpile management technicians, a munition control supervisor and a noncommissioned officer in charge of the 31st MUNS conventional munitions support.
U.S Airmen from the 31st Munition Squadron and the 731 Munition Squadron compete at the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2020.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
It was the idea of Air Force Staff. Sgt. Ana L. Merkel, a munitions inspector, to have the team dress as Women Ordnance Workers — the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter — and highlight the “impact females have on Sortie generations,” an Air Force news release noted.
Wearing dark blue jumpsuits, a brown belt and signature red bandanas with white polka dots, the women hoped to honor those who “paved the way” by working in manufacturing during World War I and World War II, the release said.
In honor of their win, the women will have their names etched on plaques to be displayed at the unit.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Marine Corps’ top future warfare planners say the days of an Iwo Jima-style beach assault — with hours of shore bombardment, waves of amphibious vehicles lumbering through the surf and Leathernecks plodding to shore through hails of gunfire — are long gone.
But the mission to enter an adversary’s country through a ship-to-shore assault is not.
The problem, they say, is coming up with innovative ways to take that beach without exposing U.S. forces to a World War II-esque bloodbath.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment prepare a newly developed system, the Multi Utility Tactical Transport, for testing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 8, 2016. The MUTT is designed as a force multiplier to enhance expeditionary power enabling Marines to cover larger areas and provide superior firepower with the lightest tactical footprint possible. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
That’s why the Corps has teamed with the Navy’s top research and development office to come up with technologies that can help with its future warfare plan. Service officials are asking industry for solutions to spoof enemy radars and sensors, mask the U.S. forces going ashore from overhead surveillance and keep manned platforms well out of harms way until the enemy’s defenses are taken out.
Planners are increasingly looking to unmanned systems like drone subs, robots and autonomous ships to do much of the amphibious assault work for them.
“Why put men at risk when we can have autonomous systems do this for us?” said Marine Corps Combat Development Command chief Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh during an interview with defense reporters Oct. 19. “We’re looking for technologies that can help us do ship-to-shore maneuver differently.”
Walsh imagined robotic boats flowing inland with cannon or mortars on them helping suppress enemy defenses; drones and electronic jammers that tell enemy sensors Marines and Navy ships are in one location, when they’re actually in another; drone submarines that find and destroy enemy sea mines so SEALs and other manned systems don’t have to do the dangerous work of clearing beaches — all in an effort to keep the Corps’ primary mission of amphibious assault intact, but giving it a 21st Century twist.
Engineers with the Navy’s research and development office alongside MCCDC are asking civilian companies and DoD labs to provide new systems and technologies that can be tested in a wide-ranging wargame set for next year.
Officials are looking for new gear to help Marines get to shore quicker and from farther out to sea; fire support systems that will hit targets both at sea and on land; new mine and obstacle clearing systems; jam-proof communications systems; and “adaptive uses of proven electromagnetic warfare techniques and decoys that lengthen the enemy’s targeting cycle, forcing them to commit resources to the decoys and incite an enemy response.”
“This concept of prototyping and experimenting at the same time is something totally new,” said the Navy’s Assistant Sec. for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Dr. Richard Burrows. “Industry is doing a lot of good things out there and we want to take a look at them.”
The Marlin is an unmanned underwater vehicle that is currently used in a variety of applications, but primarily for searching for stuff.
You may be wondering – why would you use an unmanned vehicle underwater? After all, we’re paying through the nose for nuclear-powered attack submarines. Why can’t they do they job? It’s a very good question. One of the big reasons is that nuclear attack submarines are primarily designed to sink enemy ships and attack. This requires that they be built very differently.
The Marlin can be deployed from the surface or from underwater.
(Photo by Lockheed)
Unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs (also called drones) are very useful for looking for things on the ocean floor. First of all, you can send them into hostile territory or a dangerous area (like a minefield), and really you just have to worry about the accountants if the drone hits the mine. Second, they can spend a lot of time searching, because they don’t need to take breaks to feed themselves or sleep or other time-consuming human endeavors. Third, because they don’t have to haul around the stuff that humans need to survive and function, they can be a lot smaller.
The Marlin Mk 2 can operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet, and has a top speed of four knots.
(Photo by Lockheed)
According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, two versions of the Marlin are available or in the works. One, the Marlin Mk 2, is able to operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet and operate for up to 24 hours. It has a top speed of four knots. The Marlin Mk 3 is much larger, has a minimum endurance of 20 hours, a top speed of five knots, and can operate at depths of up to 4,000 feet. They can be deployed from a surface vessel or from underwater.
These days, when you are searching for something in the ocean, it can take a lot of time. And unlike the character from Finding Nemo, these Marlins won’t give you some snarky sass.
With the growing tensions and the many threats that North Korea poses, it’s a safe bet that there is a desire to keep an eye on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Of course, the DPRK strongman isn’t going to be obliging and tell us what he is up to. According to FoxNews.com, the Air Force is keeping an eye on him – and one of the planes that help do this is quite an old design, even if it has a lot of new wrinkles.
Osan Air Base is best known as the home base of the 51st Fighter Wing, which has a squadron of F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts. But Osan also is home to a permanent detachment from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates the Lockheed U-2S, known as the Dragon Lady.
Yeah, you heard that right. Even in an era where we have Predators, Reapers, and the RQ-170 Sentinels, among other planes, the 1950s-vintage U-2 is still a crucial asset for the United States Air Force.
In fact, according to GlobalSecurity.org, one variant of the U-2, the TR-1, was in production in the 1980s. The TR-1s and U-2Rs were re-manufactured into the U-2S in the 1990s. The TR-1 was notable in that it swapped out cameras for side-looking radar, and it was eventually called a U-2 in the 1990s.
An Air Force fact sheet notes that the U-2S is capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet and it has a range of over 6,090 nautical miles. In short, this plane is one high-altitude all-seeing eye. The planes are reportedly capable of mid-air refueling, but having a single seat means that pilot endurance is often a bigger factor than a lack of fuel.
The Air Force fast sheet notes that the U-2 can carry infrared cameras, optical cameras, a radar, a signals intelligence package, and even a communications package.
The U-2 has proven that it is a very versatile plane. The Air Force is considering a replacement, but that may prove to be a tricky task. While plans calls for the plane to be retired in 2019, a 2014 Lockheed release makes a compelling case for the U-2 to stick around, noting it has as much as 35 years of life left on its airframes.
That’s a long time to get any proposed replacement right.
By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”
The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.
The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.
“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.
Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.
Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.
The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.
If you haven’t played
Red Dead Redemption II, we highly recommend it. The game has some great storytelling and features some amazing characters. The most notable of the cast is the protagonist and player-character, Arthur Morgan. Easily one of the best characters in video game history, Arthur Morgan’s set of skills puts him in line with special operators around the world.
Special operators must be equipped to carry out the most dangerous missions the country has to offer. This is why they’re required to undergo rigorous training. Arthur Morgan, on the other hand, developed his skills while trying to survive in the days of the American frontier, a.k.a. The Wild West.
While there’re plenty of things to say about Arthur Morgan, here are some of the top reasons he’s operator AF:
Oh, and before we begin, this is your official spoiler warning.
Yes, he can even use a bow.
He can use just about any weapon
From your standard lever-action rifle to a tomahawk, Arthur can pick up any weapon and use it with deadly proficiency. He’s also a very skilled boxer and knife-fighter. His previous life as an outlaw put him through numerous fights against all sorts of enemies, and he learned from those experiences.
Being outnumbered is actually fun in this game.
He fights against overwhelming odds
Not unlike our very own Green Berets, who are trained to take on entire battalions with a single team, Morgan is no stranger to being outnumbered and still managing to shoot his way out of the situation, relatively unscathed.
In fact, on several occasions throughout the game, you fight around 20 people by yourself. That may not seem like a lot, but when your fastest firing weapon is a lever-action, it’s quite a challenge.
You’re alone most of the game anyway.
He goes on covert missions
Numerous times throughout the game, you’re sent on missions to steal or destroy things without being detected. Hell, there’s even a mission where you and another character, the famous John Marston, secretly blow up a railroad bridge. Another mission takes you into an Army camp to steal some items.
Of course, you can choose to make some noise, but when you do it quietly, you really get the feeling that Arthur is a true operator of his time.
Look at that thing!
He can grow a sick beard
While it may not be a requirement, most operators are definitely capable of growing nice, thick beards. If you choose to let it grow, Arthur’s beard can challenge even the most operator beards.
It’s honestly heartbreaking, though.
He gets tuberculosis… and keeps on fighting
The man gets diagnosed with TB and is even told by a doctor to get plenty of rest, but what does Arthur do? He goes about living his life as though nothing has changed. He struggles, sure, but he doesn’t let the sickness become a liability and fights all the way to the very end.
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress crew from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are being hailed as heroes. The B-52H located the lost crew of an open ocean Polynesian-style canoe after they were missing at sea for six days.
The traditional Pacific Island-style canoe carrying six paddlers had become lost after sailing from nearby Piagailoe Atoll on June 19, 2018. The journey from the atoll to Guam was only supposed to take one day — meaning the paddlers, who had minimal supplies had been missing at sea for nearly a week.
Following the location of the canoers from the USAF B-52H, the six-member crew of the ocean-going canoe rendezvoused with a merchant vessel in the area that was directed to their location to effect rescue. The merchant vessel provided the canoers with water, food and navigational assistance so they could safely return to land.
The eight-engine, long range B-52H bomber joined the search when the crew from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., was on a routine flight during a deployment to Guam. The heavy bomber crew responded to a call from the Coast Guard for assistance in the search on June 25, 2018.
Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard.
“This was a unique situation for us,” Capt. Sean Simpson, one of the bomber’s crew, said in an Air Force statement. “It’s not every day the B-52 gets called for a search and rescue.”
Initially the crew of the B-52H was unfamiliar with the type of vessel they were searching for. Coast Guard personal compared the small, difficult to spot indigenous canoe with the boat from the Disney cartoon “Moana”. Capt. Simpson told media, “We asked for more details about the vessel and the dispatcher told us, ‘It’s just like the boat from [the Disney film] ‘Moana.'”
The B-52H crew were able to locate the canoe and its crew at sea only three hours after being called into the search and rescue operation.
“We spotted this vessel from about 19,000 feet,” 1st Lt. Jordan Allen told Air Force media in the statement. “It’s really a small miracle that we were able to see it, because there was quite a bit of clouds.”
The lost canoe was located by the crew from one of the B-52H after it was compared to a similar one that appeared in a Disney cartoon.
“Search and rescue isn’t something people typically think of when they talk about the B-52, but our training and adaptability really paid off,” Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, the bomb squadron’s director of operations, said in the statement. “Being a part of this successful search and rescue operation speaks to the diversity of our skill set and shows our importance here in the Pacific.”
While the 63-year old Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, first flown in 1952 and accepted into the Air Force in 1955, is oddly well suited for the maritime search and rescue role even though it was introduced as a global reach strategic nuclear bomber. The aircraft has an extremely long combat radius of 4,480 miles, meaning it can search out in a straight line 4,480 miles and return the same distance without refueling. Given midair refueling availability, the B-52’s endurance is limited mostly by its crew’s physical endurance.
In January 1957 three USAF B-52s set an endurance record by becoming the first jet aircraft to circle the earth on a non-stop flight. The early version B-52Bs flew continuously for 45 hours and 19 minutes. In total the planes flew 24,345 miles without landing.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).
These days, however, threats to ships have become much more diverse and, in a sense, non-conventional. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons have emerged as threats to seafaring vessels.
Marines train for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. While chemical weapons have often been used on land, they can also be used against ships.
(DoD photo by Senior Airman Daniel Owen, U.S. Air Force)
Nuclear weapons are obvious threats. If a ship is in very close proximity to the detonation of such a weapon, it’d quickly be reduced to radioactive dust. Further out, the blast wave and extreme heat would cause fires and do serious damage. Don’t take my word for it, check out Operation Crossroads. In a test, two nuclear blasts sank a number of retired ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3) that had survived many battles in World War II.
Chemical, biological, and radiological threats, though, are a bit more insidious. They don’t do direct damage to the warship, but can kill or incapacitate the crew. A warship without a crew faces some serious trouble. Thankfully, there’s a way to detect and mitigate such threats.
The Baker shot from Operation Crossroads — with the Japanese battleship Nagato on the left.
Currently, a Finnish company known as Environics is developing gear that monitors for CBRN threats. Once the alarms sound, the ship’s crew can then seal off the ship into a citadel. Afterwards, the decontamination process can begin.
While the use of chemical and biological weapons has been banned by international treaties, recent events in Syria show that, sometimes, political agreements don’t hold weight. Thankfully, systems like those from Environics will crews potentially in danger a way to protect themselves.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(The featured cartoon courtesy of the author. A flash-bang is a concussion grenade that does not produce primary fragmentation, only extreme sound and blinding flash that serves to stun an enemy momentarily upon a room entry.
Depicted is a team preparing to enter a room of unknown threat posture, substituting the flash-bang preparation drill with a can of “explosive” spray adhesive. “Lid’s off!” replaces the usual “Pin’s out!” referring to the flash-bang’s safety pin whose removal is the last step before throwing the grenade.
In the final scene, the threat is neutralized by the exploding can of “spooge” rendering the threat stuck to walls, floors, and other incapacitating postures.)
(A typical Flash-Bang grenade used by Law Enforcement; no fragmentation, just loud extreme loud noise and flash. Flash-Bangs are categorized as non-lethal riot control devices.)
“Spooge” somehow became the nickname for the cans of spray adhesive we used to stick paper targets, bull’s eyes, and the like to a target stake downrange. It simply was the quickest and most convenient way to stick paper to cardboard and get on to the business of sending maximum rounds down range on a near-daily basis.
(In all its glory, the 3M Super 77CA Multipurpose spray adhesive can)
Spray adhesive was for paper on cardboard. For attaching cardboard to a wooden target, slat roofing tacks were used. Roofing tacks are a short nail with a very wide and flat head. It happened that when our Delta brother, Cuz, was hurriedly attaching a fresh target paper he noted his target backing was pulling apart from the wooden target slat.
Not wanting to lose the time to run the 150 meters back to the target shed to retrieve a proper hammer, Cuz decided that the spooge can already in his hand possessed sufficient merit to serve to pound in the tack. Within a few smacks on the roof tack with the bottom edge of the can it burst, completely engulfing his head and face.
Cuz’s ballistic eye protection was glued to his face, and his hair was covered. He staggered around blindly and calling out:
“Little help… a little help over here — we have a situation!”
We quickly engage in the attempt to pull his eye protection away from his face so he could see again, a ponderous and painful process.
“Well guys… that’s why we wear this safety equipment, you know?” he recited flatly, mimicking a certain redundant preaching that was certain to result from the incident.
“Cuz, I think you better just head on straight home from here and see about getting that spooge out of your hair; there’s not much else you can accomplish here… unless you want to finish hammering that nail with a fresh can…” our Troop Sergeant joked.
As fortune would have it, Cuz’s Mrs. was a hairdresser and knew just how to work the glue from out of Cuz’s hair and off his face. She did a remarkable job; when Cuz returned to work the next day, there was not so much of a hint of the adhesive in his hair, a vision that I found truly extraordinary.
For sure I endured the nagging and pining need for a cartoon to portray the event. As bizarre as it was, it was sure to be a cinch to find the humor…the humor in a can of target spooge that blew up in Cuz’s face like a… a flash-bang grenade. There it was; the vision in my head of spooge cans replacing bangers in a tactical building entry, the bad guys glued to the walls, floors, and fixtures. I stuck a fork in it *cuz* it was done.
Soon enough, I felt Cuz’s eye on me for a time, then he finally approached me when I was alone; I felt I already knew what was coming and was right:
“Yo Geo… this isn’t going to find its way into the cartoon book, is it?”
Oh, the shame! Yet again a man was missing the glory of being immortalized in the Unit cartoon book. I had to remind him; I had to remind them all that they WANTED to be in the cartoon book for the balance of time, though it might not be a thing they recognized immediately. I had to explain to Cuz the same way I had to explain it to every candidate:
Just because you got hurt or injured or humiliated due to an unfortunate blunder committed while on the job… do NOT think you should get a pass for that from the unit Cartoonist. That will not happen — if you dance you’re going to have to pay the band, and if you have to pay the band you might as well make sure it plays your favorite tune!
“Recall if you will that the cartoonist has a measure of reputation to maintain with his public. The fact that you make the cartoon book is purely a business decision, one entirely devoid of any emotion or sympathy… a cold, impersonal, heartless business decision. I am the cartoonist; I AM THE BAND!
Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).
Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.
Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:
Lamb while serving overseas.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?
Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.
Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?
I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.
Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.
Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)
What was your plan when you retired from the military?
I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.
Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.
You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?
I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.
So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
Lamb while serving overseas.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.
Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.
Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?
Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?
My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.
Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.
You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?
Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.
Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.
You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.
Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)
Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?
The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.
But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.
Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?
You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.
While North Korea’s efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States have generated headlines, a different home-brew weapons project is worth attention. That project developed a long-range self-propelled howitzer.
This deadly machine is called the Koksan, and according to MilitaryFactory.com, it can reach out and touch targets just over 37 miles away. The fact that this howitzer can move makes it even more lethal and hard to find.
The main cannon has a diameter of 170mm, or just under 6.7 inches. The barrel is long, appearing to be almost twice the length of the vehicle, a modified Chinese Type 59 main battle tank chassis. That vehicle can go up to 186 miles on a single tank of gas.
The Koksan looks a lot like the American-designed M107 175mm self-propelled howitzer, and in many ways, it fulfills the same function of providing long-range firepower. That said, the Koksan comes with a set of minuses.
One of the biggest is that the howitzer is ungainly – largely due to the long barrel. It is also slow – with a top speed of just under 25 miles per hour. That’s a problem when a M1A2 Abrams arrives. The gun also fires slowly – with two and a half minutes between rounds. The first version, the M1978, didn’t even carry rounds with it.
A newer version, the M1989, which the North Koreans have paraded publicly, does have 12 rounds of ammo on the vehicle. This howitzer is probably more likely to be used in hardened defense positions. This has the benefit of protecting the crews better, but it does mean the howitzer’s position is fixed.
You can see a video about this North Korean big gun below.
The SR-71 Blackbird is an awesome plane. But did you know that it could have been even more awesome than it was? The Air Force was planning to make a fighter version of the plane.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as the early iterations of the SR-71 were being designed, there was a need for an interceptor. The F-108 program had been cancelled due to its high cost. However, there was still a desire for a high-speed, long-range interceptor.
The A-12 OXCART being developed for the CIA was seen as a likely basis for a fighter. Lockheed’s Skunk Works team soon figured out how to add a powerful radar, the AN/ASG-18, capable of detecting targets from as far off as 500 miles in some cases, and four AIM-47 missiles.
The resulting plane was designated the YF-12, and three prototypes were built.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the AIM-47 had a range of over 100 miles and a speed of Mach 4. While a 250-ton W42 warhead never materialized for this missile, it did get a 100-pound high-explosive warhead.
News of the the YF-12’s development was leaked in an effort to distract the public from the work being done to make a reconnaissance plane. But the plane – awesome as it was – would not ever see service due to the development of reliable inter-continental ballistic missiles.
The YF-12 would get a production order for 93 airframes from the Air Force. However, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to release the funds, and the project ended up being halted at the three prototypes. Two were handed over to NASA for research flights. One of those crashed after a fuel line caught fire in 1971, with the crew ejecting from the stricken plane.
The YF-12 will remain one of the biggest “could have been” planes in history. The jet still has a legacy – partially in the SR-71 Blackbird, but also in the form of the AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles used by the F-14 Tomcat. Even though this plane never got a chance to serve, it still did a lot for America’s military aviation development.