The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The US Air Force is now accelerating a massive AI push to cyber-harden networks, improve weapons systems, and transform functions of large combat air platforms such as the B-2, F-15 and F-35, service officials said.

“The Air Force has over 600 projects incorporating a facet of artificial intelligence to address various mission sets,” Capt. Hope Cronin, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.


While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems and large platforms.

AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control.

When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.

For the F-35, B-2 and F-15, rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize targeting, ISR and sensor input such as navigation information, radar warning information, images or video.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

F-35A off the coast of Northwest Florida.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

The F-35, for instance, uses early iterations of artificial intelligence to help acquire, organize and present information to the pilot on a single screen without much human intervention. Often referred to as easing the cognitive burden upon pilots, the effort is geared toward systematically presenting information from a range of disparate sensors on a single screen. The F-35s widely-discussed sensor fusion, for example, is evidence of this phenomenon, as it involves consolidating targeting, navigation and sensor information for pilots.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves — without needing human intervention.

The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine healh or other avionics.

A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.

ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

F-35 cockpit.

As a result, 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.

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 reconnaissance 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.

The prospect of using advanced algorithms and on-board computers to quickly perform a range of aircraft functions, while enabling human decision makers in a role of command and control, is further explored in a research paper from a London-based think tank called “Chatam House – Royal Institute of International Affairs.”

The 2017 essay, titled “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare,” explains how fighter and bomber pilot “checklists” can be enabled by AI as “cognitive-aiding tools.”

“…pilots rely significantly on procedures to help them manage the complexity of various tasks. For instance, when a fire-light illuminates or another subsystem indicates a problem, pilots are trained to first stabilize the aircraft (a skill) but then turn to the manual to determine the correct procedure (rule following). Such codified procedures are necessary since there are far too many solutions to possible problems to be remembered,” the Chatam House paper writes.

The Air Force’s stealthy B-2 bomber is yet another example; the aircraft is receiving a new flight management control processor which increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, Air Force officials said.

The upgrade is a quantum improvement over the legacy system, providing over a thousand times the processor throughput, memory, and network speed, according to senior Air Force leaders. The new processor will help automated navigation programs and expedite the B-2s “fly-by-wire” technology — all of which are designed to enable a pilot to expend energy upon the most pressing combat tasks with less intervention.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor Upgrade, also known as the Extremely High Frequency, Increment 1 processor upgrade, completed the final aircraft install in August 2016, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven in 2017.

Faster, more capable processors will enable the aircraft’s avionics, radar, sensors, and communications technologies to better identify and attack enemy targets. The sensor-to-shooter time will be greatly reduced, allowing the B-2 to launch weapons much more effectively, therefore reducing its exposure to enemy attacks.

Although built in the 1980s, the B-2 is a digital airplane which uses what’s called a “glass cockpit” for flight controls and on-board systems.

The upgrade involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now — because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Warrior.

Improved Processing capacity for the B-2 will enable the upcoming integration of digital nuclear weapons, such as the B61-12, service officials explained.

Also, the Air Force F-15 is now being engineered with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.

“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Warrior in 2017.

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

Articles

Here’s the Russians’ answer to anti-tank missiles

The Arena active protection system is a Russian tanker’s answer to rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles.


Unlike reactive armor which neutralizes impacts with an outward blast of its own, the Arena system aims to avoid impacts altogether by intercepting incoming threats with projectiles. It’s also more technical in that it uses a multi-function Doppler radar and digital computer scans that arc around the tank like an invisible forcefield. Its computer system has a reaction time of 0.05 seconds and protects most of the tank except for the area behind the turret.

Here’s the step-by-step explanation of how the system works:

The Arena active protection system forms an invisible protection barrier around the perimeter of the tank.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
vaso opel, YouTube

Once a weapon crosses its perimeter, the Arena system deploys its projectiles to intercept the threat.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
stuka62, YouTube

The Arena’s weak spot is the area behind the turret, which could be the front or the back of the tank depending on the gun’s position.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
vaso opel, YouTube

The entire sequence literally takes place in a blink of the eye.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
vixed123, YouTube

Here’s the same shot from a different angle.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
vexed123, YouTube

Here is the entire sequence in super slow-motion.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
vexed123, YouTube

Watch the Arena active protection system test video:

Articles

This is what the F-22 Raptor’s replacement will be like

The F-22 Raptor is already the most lethal fighter jet ever built, severely outclassing virtually every other aircraft of a similar class fielded by the rest of the world’s air forces.


But with the advent of newer anti-aircraft defense systems, stealth-defeating tracking technologies and the entrance of countries such as China and Russia into the stealth fighter foray, the F-22 will eventually need to be replaced with something even more powerful.

With the looming retirement of the F-15C/D Eagle, its secondary air superiority fighter, in the next decade, the Air Force has begun taking strides towards designing the F-22’s follow-on in order to maintain its combat edge over every other air force in the world.

Throughout the USAF’s history, each of its fighter jets have built upon the aircraft they replaced, incorporating lessons learned and proven concepts, while expanding on their capabilities with new technology and methods of prosecuting aerial combat. The F-22’s replacement, currently known as “Penetrating Counter Air,” will take shape in much the same way.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
A 6th generation fighter concept developed by Boeing for the US Navy (Photo Boeing)

It will likely be highly stealthy, carrying its weapons internally in order to minimize radar detection. It will also probably be supersonic, and able to actively defeat enemy sensors in a similar manner to the F-22 and F-35.

Among the most noticeable differences between the F-22 and its replacement will be the lack of tails. Every American fighter jet ever built has featured one or two vertical stabilizers which, as their names suggest, provide stability and yaw control in flight.

Instead, the PCA will likely remove the vertical stabilizers altogether to enhance stealth by decreasing the aircraft’s overall radar signature. The end result will look more like a sleeker and faster B-2 Spirit or a X-47B drone, instead of something similar to the twin-tailed F-35 Lightning II, or the single-tailed F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
An F-22 banking away after refueling in midair with a KC-135 Stratotanker (Photo US Air Force)

Additionally, the new fighter be built for long-range missions — especially escorting larger bomber aircraft like the B-2, or the upcoming B-21 Raider, deep behind the front lines to strike at the heart of the enemy’s war machine. This is a much-needed capability the USAF has sorely lacked for decades.

The PCA will be designed to work alongside the F-35 Lightning II, with both aircraft drawing upon each other’s strengths while mitigating weaknesses in capability. Given that the Air Force plans on retaining its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet long for years and years to come, the PCA will likely also be capable of working with older “legacy” aircraft.

One of the key focal points of the PCA program will be developing an engine that gives the new fighter unprecedented range, while maximizing operational fuel efficiency.

The PCA program seeks nearly $300 million in funding from Congress over the next few years in order to complete its research and analysis goals while developing and investigating new technologies that will make the F-22’s replacement arguably the deadliest and most powerful fighter aircraft ever conceived.

Articles

Bang BOLO I: Some New Bullet News

Bang BOLO: Some New Bullet News


A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear

PAY ATTENTION. This is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither review, endorsement nor denunciation. We’re just telling you these things exist if’n you wanna check ’em out.

Grunts: Epistemophilia

1. SST NAS3 cases

Shell Shock Technologies has announced the successful completion of a 1,000 round torture test of its NAS3 case without failure.

NAS3 cases are two-piece cases described as both stronger and more reliable than traditional brass. They’re just half the weight, are intended to deliver greater lubricity, and apparently can be reloaded numerous times.

According to SST they won’t abrade, foul, clog, wear out or otherwise damage breach and ejector mechanisms (which, if true, is significant). They are likewise described as more resistant to corrosion than brass, with greater elasticity.

As for reloading, Shell Shock says, “NAS3 cases will not split, chip, crack or grow (stretch) and are fully-reloadable with S3 Reload dies. Customers have reported being able to reload NAS3 cases many more times than brass cases. A video can be found on Shell Shock’s website showing 9mm Luger NAS3 cases being reloaded 32 times using S3 Reload dies.”

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The cases have been tested to pressures up over 70,000 psi and — according to independent tests conducted by H.P. White Laboratory — achieved a velocity standard deviation of 0.93 fps with a 124 grain bullet using 4.2 grain Titegroup powder over a string of 10 rounds.

The extreme variation was 3 fps.

They ran the test with an Angstadt Arms (@angstadtarms) UDP-9, which is an interesting choice, and one that piques our interest. The UDP-9 is one of the weapons we’ve been wanting to shoot and review.

It’s a closed bolt blowback PDW that uses Glock magazines, in an AR pistol configuration. Should be interesting to shoot.

Shell Shock doesn’t sell loaded ammunition, mind you—they supply 2-piece cases (which allegedly eject cool to the touch). You’ll need to load your own or buy some that someone else has loaded.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

You can find Shell Shock Technologies online here.

Read what the NRA had to say about ’em right here.

 

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

2. Sig Sauer 223 Match Grade ammunition

Sig Ammunitions’s new 223 Match Grade ammunition is a 77 grain Sierra Matchking bullet in an Open Top Match round, designed to function in both bolt guns and precision AR platforms. Sig says the new addition to its Match Grade Elite Performance Series delivers 2,750fps, with a muzzle energy of 1,923 ft-lbs.

The propellant they use is manufactured to deliver consistent muzzle velocity in all weather conditions. As Sig tells it:

“Premium-quality primers ensure minimum velocity variations, and the shell case metallurgy is optimized in the SIG Match Grade OTM cartridge to yield consistent bullet retention round to round. All SIG SAUER rifle ammunition is precision loaded on state-of-the-art equipment that is 100% electromechanically monitored to ensure geometric conformity and charge weight consistency.”

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
Sig Sauer’s Ben Johnson is one of the reasons for the company’s continued success. A superlative horseman, former stuntman, and accomplished rodeo rider, Johnson has starred in numerous westerns over the years. He played such iconic characters as Cap Rountree, Mr. Pepper, Sgt. Tyree, and Tector Gorch before taking on his current role as the Sig Sauer Schalldämpfer Product Manager.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Dan Powers, the President of Sig’s Ammo Division, says this about the new bullet:

“The 223 Rem is one of the most popular calibers on the market today, and our customers have been asking for it since we entered the ammunition business. The accuracy and reliability of our new 223 Rem Match Grade rifle ammunition make it an ideal choice for precision shooters – whether shooting in competitions or hunting varmints.”

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

3. G2 Telos

G2 Research, progenitors of the Radically Invasive Projectile and other dramatically named bullets, has release a new round called the Telos in both .38 special and 9mm +P.

To the idea that .38 Special and 9mm Parabellum rounds have been “underrated” during the last decade, Chris Nix, G2 VP of Sales Marketing, says the following:

“That will change with these new G2 Research +P Telos rounds. These new rounds are specifically designed and loaded to stop fights — quickly!”

Thank heavens! Most bullets can’t make that claim.

Especially the ones meant for tickle fights.

The Telos bullet is CNC-built using a copper slug, constructed with a “huge internally segmented hollow-point.”

G2 advises, “Once the hollow point fills fluid it literally flies apart in controlled-fragmentation releasing six-copper petals. … The base of the bullet continues to travel forward for additional penetration (10+inches). [sic]”

Well, who the hell wouldn’t  want at least an additional penetration of *snicker* *snort* ten or more additional inches?

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

They go on to say,

“The Telos bullet is designed to stay inside the target releasing all of its energy, not into an innocent bystander on the other side of the target.”

This sort of ballistic performance, by the way, is exactly why it’s the chosen bullet of both Kung Fury and Hardcore Henry. It will literally disintegrate a Tyrannosaurus Rex if you hit it with a controlled pair fast enough.

Here’s the specs G2 presents:

Full Specs:

Caliber: .38 Special +P

Bullet weight: 105 grains

Velocity: 1,170 fps

MSRP: $28.99-twenty rounds

Caliber: 9mm +P

Bullet weight: 92 grains

Velocity: 1,120 fps

MSRP: $27.99-twenty rounds

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 of the weirdest military aircraft that actually flew

These aircraft might have the feel of science fiction, but we have it on good authority that every single one of them graced the skies – or at least attempted to get off the ground. Take a look at nine of the weirdest military aircraft that actually flew.


The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Caprioni Ca.60

What the Caprioni Ca.60 lacked in actual flying power it made up for with an overabundance of wings and engines. Even though this aircraft only flew once to an attitude of 60 feet, it still served as a flying boat prototype for a 100-passenger trans-Atlantic plane. The Ca.60 had eight engines and nine wings. Talk about overkill.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Convair F2Y Sea Dart

This might look like a top of the line fancy jet ski, but it’s the world’s one and only supersonic seaplane. In the 40s, supersonic jets had a long takeoff roll from aircraft carriers to get airborne. So the Navy decided the best way to shorten the roll was to put skis on the jet. Unfortunately, the engines on the Sea Dart weren’t powerful enough to work well, and violent vibrations grounded the aircraft for good.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Curtiss-Wright VZ-7

We love this one for the sheer absurdity of it. It seems like someone decided all a pilot needed to fly was a seat and a set of controls. Enter the Curtiss-Wright. The Curtiss-Wright VX-7 was incredibly dangerous and unique, and “flying JEEP” was apparently easy to fly, it left the pilot open to enemy fire. Unfortunately, the Curtiss-Wright never met Army standards and was permanently grounded.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Goodyear Inflatoplane

As if the name “Inflatoplane” isn’t hilarious enough, this aircraft proves that maybe Goodyear should stick to making tires. This experimental project tried to make an all-fabric inflatable aircraft that could be used as a rescue plan. The idea was that the Inflatoplane would be dropped down to pilots behind enemy lines. But the entire project was quickly canceled by the Army because there wasn’t a valid military use for an aircraft that could be “brought down by a bow and arrow.” Nice try, Goodyear.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Hiller X-18

Often considered the prototype for the Osprey, the Hiller X-18 was the first testbed for tilt-wing and VSTOL technology. However, the X-18 didn’t handle wind gusts very well, and since the engines weren’t cross-linked, every engine failure resulted in a crash.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Lockheed XFV

Ah, Lockheed, you never fail to disappoint. The XFV was Lockheed’s attempt at combining an airplane and a helicopter, and the results were … interesting, to say the least. While the XFV did manage to transition from horizontal to vertical flight, it lacked the speed to really “take off” in the aviation world – not to mention the right kind of pilots who could fly it.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
McDonnell XF-85

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin

Talk about ambitions. The idea behind the McDonnel XF-85 Goblin was simple enough on paper. The plan was for the XF-85 to be carried in the belly of a Convair B-36 bomber and launched mid-flight to protect the bombers from enemies. Then, it would re-dock with the bomber using a simple retractable nose-hook. Too bad this was all so much easier said than done. On its first test flight, the project was scrapped because it was almost impossible to complete the redocking procedure.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

North American F-82 Twin Mustang

The other name for the North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the “Double P-51” because it had two cockpits. This aircraft was designed as a long escort fighter for WWII, but the war ended before it got off the ground.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Northrup Tacit Blue

If the sight of the Northrup brings to mind old-school box race cars, you’re not alone. Most people think of a pine box racer competition when they see the Northrup Tacit Blue because of its angular lines and low-to-the-ground profile. In actuality, it was a stealth testbed flown in the early 1980s. The aircraft included a quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire system to help keep it airborne.

These nine aircraft experiments prove that just because something can be successfully created on paper doesn’t mean it’s possible to leave the ground. Hats off to all the designers for their ingenuity and the pilots who were willing to give these aircraft a chance.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

When the Army experimented with mounting artillery to helicopters

High-Mobility Artillery Rockets systems are trucks that can take highly capable rockets right to the frontlines in combat, but before HIMARs, the Army experimented with strapping rockets onto helicopters in Vietnam and using them as true helicopter artillery — the Redlegs of the sky.


AIR ROCKET ARTILLERY BATTERY – LMVIETHD159

www.youtube.com

To be clear, this wasn’t air support or close combat attack; this was artillery in the air. These units belonged to the division artillery unit, their fires were controlled by the fire direction center, and they specialized in massed fires, not the pinpoint strikes of close combat attack helicopters.

It all started in 1962 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Gen. Hamilton Howze called on military leaders to rethink land warfare, and subordinate leaders came back with a few concepts that might make the Army more flexible. One of those suggestions was to make artillery more responsive by creating two new unit types: aerial rocket artillery battalions and aviation batteries.

The aerial rocket artillery battalions were filled with helicopters strapped with dozens of rockets that they would fire en masse when receiving fire missions. The aviation batteries were helicopter units that could pick tube artillery, usually howitzers, and deliver them to firing points near the battlefield on short notice where they would then be used normally.

For infantrymen in combat, this meant they could request artillery support nearly anywhere in country and get it fast, even if they had been deposited by helicopter miles ahead of any artillery units.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Aerial rocket artillery didn’t focus on precision strikes, but they had the firepower to make up for it.

(U.S. Army illustration)

Tube artillery delivered via helicopter is still used today and worked about as you would expect. Usually, military planners would identify the need for artillery ahead of time and send in the gun, suspended under Chinooks, as soon as ground troops secured the firing point. But sometimes, the tube artillery would be requested after combat was already underway, and the Chinooks would rush the howitzers in.

The real craziness, though, came with the aerial rocket artillery battalions, the true helicopter artillery. These were UH-1 Iroquois or AH-1 Cobras modified to carry a loadout almost entirely composed of rockets. For AH-1s, this could be four rocket pods that each carried 19 rockets for a total armament of 76.

At times, they flew with Hueys modified to carry lights. This was valuable in any fight at night, but was especially great for base security where the “light ships” illuminated targets and tube artillery pounded it with rounds.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

An early UH-1B in an aerial rocket artillery configuration without door guns.

(U.S. Army)

But the rockets were effective in combat, so commanders kept asking for them. In addition to the quick response ground troops could get with helicopter artillery, there was the fact that the birds were more responsive on target than a howitzer conducting indirect fire could ever hope to be.

That’s because the pilots were the artillery officers, and they could adjust their fire on the fly, watching rounds impact and shifting fire as they went with limited guidance from the troops in the fight on the ground. And, aerial rocket artillery was fired from much closer to the target than tube artillery typically was.

The helicopters flew to the target at treetop level until about 1.5 miles away, then they would soar up to 300 feet and begin firing, sometimes ending their attacks as little as .75 miles from the target.

One of the Army’s two aerial rocket artillery battalions was the 2nd Battalion, 20th Artillery. On their first mission in Vietnam on September 17, 1965, they supported 101st Airborne Division soldiers under fire and were credited with killing sixty-four Viet Cong. Two weeks later, the battalion’s Alpha Battery fought an all-night battle to protect a base under attack from infantry and mortars, and they fired their rockets within 100 meters of friendly forces to keep the U.S. soldiers alive.

In December of the same year, the battalion killed approximately 400 Viet Cong while supporting troops in combat.

But if the helicopters were so effective, where’d they go?

Well, they were inactivated. The Army assimilated the helicopters back into aviation units, and division artillery units remained focused on field artillery.

In the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Army focused on precision strikes which close combat attack aircraft were already better suited for.

Articles

A new congressional report hints that Russia has better tanks than the US

The M1A2 SEP Abrams has ruled the world of armor since Operation Desert Storm. But that was over 25 years ago – and tank design innovation hasn’t stood still.


In fact, everyone is trying to get a better tank — particularly the Russians. Well, if a major tank in your inventory had a very poor performance like the T-72 did in Desert Storm, you’d be looking to upgrade, too.

And the upgraded tanks could have an advantage over the M1A2, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Russia’s first effort at an upgrade was the T-90 main battle tank. According to Globalsecurity.org, the T-90 is an evolutionary development of the T-72. It has the same gun as the tank that flopped during Desert Storm, but it did feature some new survivability enhancements, like the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic countermeasures system.

The tank saw a lot of exports, most notably to India, which has plans to buy up to 1,600 of these tanks, according to Sputnik International. Syria used T-90s acquired from Russia in 2015, according to Al-Masdar News, and Algeria also has a substantial arsenal of T-90s, according to a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency.

The T-90, though, is not quite capable of standing up to the Abrams, largely due to the fact it is still an evolved T-72.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms
T-90 with the Indian Army (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The T-14 Armata, though, is a very different beast. According to Globalsecurity.org, it bears more of a resemblance to the Abrams and Leopard 2 and has a remote-controlled gun in an unmanned turret. Specs on that site note that it not only has a new 125mm gun, but also carries two AT-14 anti-tank missiles. According to the London Telegraph, British intelligence has claimed that “Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”

Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that the combination of the Armata’s ability to take a larger gun in the future and its active protection system could be game-changers.

T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“This has the potential to greatly reduce the firepower of Nato infantry. Of course, there are few Armata yet, and it is not clear how rapidly they will enter service,” an IISS land warfare specialist and former British army brigadier told the Telegraph. “But as they do, they will increase the effectiveness of Russian armoured forces.”

Could the Armata take down the Abrams? That remains to be seen. It’s not like the Abrams has stood still since it was introduced in 1980. And an M1A3 version is reportedly in development, according to a 2009 Army Times report.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why we’re loving this new ballistic nylon sling

This year Troy didn’t focus on a firearm at the Big 3 East Media Shoot, instead they featured some pretty rad accessories. Of course, they had plenty of firearms on hand for us to enjoy, but the enhancements were the highlight of Troy’s lineup this year.

The one accessory that caught our attention was surprisingly a new sling dubbed the Troy T-Sling. The T-Sling is made from what was described as ballistic nylon in both a padded and non-padded version in black, OD Green, MultiCam, and Coyote. While a padded sling is nice, the convenience of the non-padded version with the included elastic sling keeper makes a ton of sense if you aren’t going to be carrying the rifle all day and will be storing it in tight spaces like a cruiser, truck, or gun safe.


The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The new non-padded Troy T-Sling on a Troy SOCC pistol with a Law Tactical folder.


Troy also had their 45-degree offset Battle Sights on display mounted to just about every gun in the Troy booth. While Troy does offer the 45-degree sights in several variations, they thankfully had most of the rifles outfitted with the HK style variant. If that isn’t your thing Troy also offers them with an M4 style front and a diamond rear aperture or a variant with the Delta 1 system.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

While the author doesn’t spend a ton of time shooting offset sights of any type, the 45-degree Battle Sights combined with the SOCC Carbine came together as an easy-to-shoot package. We were triple tapping a C zone-sized steel plate at 50 to 60 yards pretty damned fast several times with only one pulled shot out of the 20 round string.

We were able to track the sights during recoil with the HK style sights consistently and with ease.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

(Lobster Media)


Troy also showcased their Precision Rifle Mount mated to a Primary Arms LPVO. We are told that the mounts are machined from a single block of 7075 aluminum and then the rings and dovetail are cut using wire EDM. The mount is available in 30mm, 34mm, and 35mm ring sizes with either a zero MOA or 20 MOA of elevation built into the mount.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The Troy Precision Rifle Mount starts at an MSRP of 5, add another if you want the coyote color instead of the black shown here.

Find more about the entire Troy lineup on their website, some of the showcased products have not been listed quite yet.

Feature image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA and other agencies are building a handful of telescopes to probe the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.

From vantage points on Earth and in space, the upcoming telescopes will rely on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of scientists’ biggest questions about dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and alien life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the skies.

The first of these telescopes, NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in 2021, then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. As early as 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the skies, while observatories on Earth peer back into the ancient universe.

Here’s what’s in the pipeline and what these new tools could reveal.


The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The Hubble space telescope in 2002.

(NASA/ESA)

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies, and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding more quickly than scientists imagined.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

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In February 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the chaos atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the light of nearby bright stars.

(NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team)

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(NASA/Chris Gunn)

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to peer into the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

The upcoming telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process in Northrop Grumman’s California facilities before its launch date on March 30, 2021.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

NASA engineers unveil the giant golden mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

(NASA Goddard)

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail and capture extremely faint signals within our own galaxy.

The farther it looks out into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

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An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.

(NASA)

Thanks to new infrared technology, the telescope could provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

Such imaging could help answer questions about how the galaxy and its black hole formed.

“Does the black hole come first and stars form around it? Do stars gather together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer,” Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, said in an October press release.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The artist concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

JWST will also search for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) — but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of star light passing through a planet’s atmosphere, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

An illustration of what it might look like on the surface of TRAPPIST-1f, a rocky planet 39 light-years away from Earth.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists have already identified over 4,000 exoplanets.

But as of yet, they haven’t been able to study most of those planets’ atmospheres to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains both methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signs like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen isn’t stable enough to last long on its own, so it must be constantly produced in order to be so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (like in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more telling, especially if there’s no carbon monoxide.

That’s because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is probably constantly producing them. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only a lifeform could release that much methane without also belching out carbon monoxide.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Dave Sime works on the WFIRST primary mirror.

(Harris Corporation / TJT Photography)

To pick up where Hubble left off, NASA is also building the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

The agency plans to launch it into Earth’s orbit in the mid-2020s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 new planets.

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The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.

(NASA)

WFIRST will have a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Each of its photos will be worth 100 Hubble images.

That breadth will help scientists probe questions about what the universe is made of and how it works — starting with dark matter.

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The foggy haze is astronomer’s interpretation of where dark matter is located in this cluster of 1,000 galaxies.

(NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center)

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Artist’s illustration of the WFIRST spacecraft.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

WFIRST will get around this issue by measuring the effects of dark matter and its counterpart, an unknown force called dark energy.

The entire universe is comprised of 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy. Everything we can see and observe with scientific instruments accounts for less than 5%.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

A pair of interacting galaxies, spotted by Hubble.

(NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Our current model of the universe.

(NASA)

Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

WFIRST will attempt to map the mysterious workings of dark matter and energy by measuring the universe’s expansion over time.

“It will lead to a very robust and rich interpretation of the effects of dark energy and will allow us to make a definite statement about the nature of dark energy,” Olivier Doré, a NASA scientist working on WFIRST, said in a press release.

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Artist’s concept of the Euclid spacecraft.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is designing the Euclid telescope for similar purposes.

Euclid will peer into deep space to see ancient light and study how the universe has evolved over the last 10 billion years. It’s slated to launch in 2022.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

An illustration of the European Space Agency’s Euclid “dark universe” telescope.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

Both telescopes will attempt to resolve a growing dispute in cosmology: How fast is the universe expanding?

Modern-day measurements contradict the predictions scientists have made based on the ancient past. The mismatch indicates that something big is missing from the standard model of the universe, but nobody knows what.

“Therein lies the crisis in cosmology,” astrophysicist Chris Fassnacht said in an October press release.

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The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at sunset in Cerro Pachón, Chile.

(LSST Project/NSF/AURA)

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will seek to address this conflict from its location in the mountains of Chile. It will spend 10 years scanning the entire sky.

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the LSST will measure the universe’s expansion. The telescope will also chart the movements of potentially hazardous asteroids that could fly dangerously close to Earth.

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An artist’s depiction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

(ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium)

On another Chilean mountaintop, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky super-Earths.

At 39 meters (128 feet), it will be the largest optical telescope in the world once it’s completed in 2025.

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An artist’s rendering of the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at night while observations are in progress.

(ESO/L. Calçada)

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

A star’s habitable zone is the orbital range in which a planet’s surface might be the right temperature to support liquid water.

(NASA)

But there’s something missing from this planned lineup of telescopes: A tool that can look for biosignatures on exoplanets that have the highest chance of hosting alien life.

That’s because the planets most likely to be habitable are usually Earth-sized, and that’s very small.

“We need to wait for the next generation of instruments — the next generation of space-based and ground-based instruments — to really start to do this for properly habitable Earth-like planets,” Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet researcher at NASA, told Business Insider.

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An artist’s concept of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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The LUVOIR telescope design.

(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Theoretically, the proposed LUVOIR and HabEx telescopes could block out stars’ light enough to examine the Earth-sized planets circling them.

The LUVOIR proposal relies on a design similar to that of the JWST. Estimates suggest it could image 50 Earth-sized exoplanets over four years, studying their atmospheres, seasons, and even surfaces.

If chosen for funding and construction, these telescopes could launch in the 2030s.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants a new, lightweight ghillie suit for snipers

U.S. Army uniform officials are working on a lightweight, modular ghillie suit for snipers to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, or FRGS, that’s known for being too heavy for hot environments.

Program Executive Office Soldier is developing the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, a modular system that would be worn over the field uniform, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, said in a recent Army press release posted on PEO Soldier’s website.


The FRGS was first fielded in 2012 at the Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia; U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The IGS will consist of components such as sleeves, leggings, veil, and cape that can be added or taken off as needed, Williams said.

It will also do away with the ghillie suit accessory kit, which is standard with the FRGS, she said, explaining that soldiers were not using most of the items in the kit.

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A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry, soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the Flame Resistant Ghillie Suit, or FRGS, during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.

(Army photo)

The Army issued a request for proposal for the IGS on Aug. 28, 2018, according to the release.

The IGS will feature a lighter, more breathable fabric than the material used in the FRGS, said Mary Armacost, a textile technologist with PM SCIE.

The material will offer some flame-resistance, but soldiers will receive most of their protection from their Flame Resistant Combat Uniform, worn underneath the IGS, Army officials said.

If all goes well, the Army plans to buy about 3,500 IGSs to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, as well as Army snipers in U.S. Special Operations Command, the release states.

The Army intends to conduct tests that will evaluate the new IGS in both lab and field environments during day and night conditions. A limited user evaluation is being scheduled for next spring, involving instructors from the Sniper School at Fort Benning.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Croatia’s new F-16s are Israel’s old ones

When a country needs to replace increasingly obsolete fighters but can’t afford to buy new ones from the manufacturer, getting them second-hand is always an option. Croatia has found themselves in that very boat recently while seeking to upgrade their air force.


The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

A MiG-21 Fishbed with the Croatian Air Force. These aircraft were left after the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomislav Haraminčić

According to a report by Agence France Presse, they found a solution in the form of 12 Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Israeli Air Force. The total cost of this deal was €403 million, nearly 0 million USD. That might seem pricey, but it’s a great deal when compared to the 5 million per new F-16 that Iraq paid, according to a 2011 Time Magazine report.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

This Israeli F-16A shot down six and a half enemy planes and took part in the 1981 Osirak reactor strike. Israel retired these planes in 2015, but some will have new life in Croatia.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor

Israel’s used Falcons provide a cheap upgrade

Currently, the Croatian Air Force has 12 MiG-21 Fishbed fighters on inventory. The Fishbed entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1959. Almost 11,500 Fishbeds were produced by the USSR and the plane was widely exported, seeing service with dozens of countries, including Vietnam, North Korea, Serbia, and Iraq. The MiG-21 is equipped with a twin-barrel 23mm cannon as well as AA-2 Atoll and AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missiles. It has a top speed of 1,381 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 741 miles.

Compared to the newer F-16, the Fishbed looks like ancient technology. An Air Force fact sheet reports that the F-16 Fighting Falcon has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour and a maximum range of over 2,000 miles. The F-16 is capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions. While the AFP report did not state which model of F-16s Israel is selling to Croatia, GlobalSecurity.org notes that Israel retired its force of F-16A/B models in 2015.

Not Israel’s first used plane sale

This is not the first time that Israel has sold off old warplanes. Argentina bought IAI Nesher fighters from Israel that saw action in the Falklands War. Additionally, a private company acquired former Israeli Air Force A-4s, which will soon see action in a multi-national exercise hosted by the Netherlands.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”

The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?

Well… no.


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The military actually employs thousands of people to maintain and repair “military grade” equipment.

(Photo By: Master Sgt. Benari Poulten 80th Training Command Public Affairs)

The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.

The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.

It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.

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Believe it or not, this is not how Marines test new gear.

(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel)

For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.

But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.

Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret’s new book challenges you to find resiliency

Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.

Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.


In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.

When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.

Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.

It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.

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Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.

Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.

It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.

After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.

Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.

It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.

To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.

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