Can you identify the weapons used in the “American Sniper” movie based on Chris Kyle’s book? Test your knowledge with this quiz.
The highest rate of fire for a machine gun in service is the M134 Minigun. The weapon was designed in the late 1960s for helicopters and armored vehicles. It fires 7.62 mm calibre rounds at a blistering rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, or 100 rounds per second — about ten times that of an ordinary machine gun, according to the Guinness World Records.
The Metal Storm gun, on the other hand, makes the M134 look like a toy. The prototype gun system was rated at 16,000 rounds per second or 1,000,000 rounds per minute. The gun system was developed by an Australian weapons company by the same name. In 2007, Metal Storm Inc. started delivering its gun systems to the US Navy for surface ships. This video shows how the Metal Storm gun achieves its head spinning firing rate.
In the 1970s, the United States faced a problem. Many of the World War II-era destroyers of the Gearing and Allen M. Sumner classes were finally showing their age. Not only were these ships entering the tail-ends of their primes, they were also very numerous — the U.S. had built 98 Gearing-class ships and 58 Sumner-class vessels. In fact, if World War II hadn’t ended when it did, we’d likely had even more of these hulls!
Many of these ships were passed on to American allies, where they went on to enjoy long careers. But selling ships off doesn’t eliminate the need for a new destroyer. The Navy was hard at work building a lot of guided-missile destroyers for anti-air action (the Coontz and Charles F. Adams classes), but the Soviets had a lot of subs, and the U.S. needed a vessel highly capable of protecting aircraft carriers and merchant ships from this burgeoning, sub-surface threat.
Six Spruance-class destroyers in the process of fitting out. All 31 vessels of the Spruance-class entered service between 1975 and 1983.
The answer was the Spruance-class destroyer. These ships were fast, notching a top speed of 32.5 knots, and packed two five-inch guns, an eight-cell Mk 29 launcher for the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, and an eight-cell Mk 16 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket. The ships also carried two triple-mounted 324mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes, two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a pair of Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon Systems, and two anti-submarine helicopters.
The United States built 31 of these ships — but passed on creating a variant capable of carrying four helicopters. Two dozen of these ships were later upgraded with a 61-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that later replaced the ASROC launcher.
USS Hayler, showing the upgrades to the Spruance design – including a Mk 41 vertical launch system.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Amy DelaTorres)
The ship proved so capable that the hull design was later reused for another 31 ships with advanced anti-air capability. Four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers and 27 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers were built using the hull design of the Spruance.
Watch the introduction of the Spruance in the video below!
For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.
Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.
“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”
The FACT pipeline
Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.
A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)
UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.
The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.
After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.
For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.
“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”
After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.
After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.
Broadening candidate diversity
Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.
A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.
Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.
As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.
“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”
Developing the legacy for the future
FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.
The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.
“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”
This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.
Tactical Baby Gear takes a parenting essential — the diaper bag — and makes it something dads will actually want to tote around.
Let’s face it: Most diaper bags are, at best, neutral and inoffensive. Very few of them make an actual statement. That’s where Tactical Baby Gear comes in. This shit is no joke. Speaking of shit, it comes with an indestructible changing pad.
Our choice for most dope diaper bag is regularly 5.
You get a heavy-duty, military-grade diaper bag with pad. The bag is made from 600D tactical polyester material and heavy-duty YKK zippers, so it’s able to withstand the zombie apocalypse, should it come to pass. The diaper bag itself is totally modular, with a large main compartment and roomy inner pockets.
Naturally, there’s a padded tablet compartment and a padded, detachable shoulder strap. And when your angel is potty-trained, you can even use this thing for non-baby outings.
If you’re looking for a matching baby carrier, here’s one that’s down from 9 and has both front-facing and rear-facing positions; it fits babies approximately 8-35 pounds.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
There are a lot of valid criticisms of most weapon programs while they’re in development, but some get hit with the dreaded title of “boondoggle,” a massive waste of taxpayer funds that should be canceled. But some boondoggles prove the naysayers wrong and go on to have successful careers protecting U.S. troops and killing enemies. Here are 5 of the weapons that ascended:
Abrams tanks roll down Norwegian streets
(U.S. Army Sgt. Williams Quinteros)
M1 Abrams tank
The M1 Abrams was famously seen as a failing, expensive program in its early days. It was an heir to two failed tank programs, the MBT-70, and the XM803. Both programs cost billions but failed to produce a suitable weapon, largely because they were too complex and didn’t quite work. So, when the Army pursued a turbine-powered tank with the XM1 program, there were a lot of naysayers.
And the initial prototypes kept the laughter going. The Abrams was massive and heavy and burned through fuel, and many thought it was clear that the Army had made another misstep. But then the Abrams went to its first war game and devastated more conventional tanks. Then Desert Storm came and 2,000 Abrams tanks slammed their way through Iraqi forces with losses of only 18 tanks and zero lost crews.
Kadena F-15C Eagle takes off like the glorious beast she is…
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt)
The F-15 was a response to the Air War over Vietnam where multi-role F-4s were struggling against older MiGs. The Air Force decided they needed a dedicated air superiority fighter once again. But the program was expensive, leading to the press and Congress saying the service was buying too many of an overpriced, overly complex aircraft when they could just buy Navy F-14s instead.
But the F-15 has a legendary combat history with 104 enemy shootdowns for only two combat losses, both to ground fire. No enemy force has been able to prove an air-to-air victory over the F-15 (though some have claimed it).
An F-14D Tomcat flies during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. The plane was retired in 2006.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Gaddis)
But back to the F-14, the Tomcat was designed to defend carrier fleets and beat out other planes during a fly-off before the Navy picked it. But during development, test pilots encountered multiple stalls in the plane and had to eject multiple times. In order to sidestep criticism, especially from then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Navy rushed the fighter into production. It came under fire again in 1989 as Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney tried to cut purchases to save other programs.
But the F-14 ended up proving itself in U.S. service over Libya, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, but it really dominated in Iranian service back when they were a U.S. ally. In all, the F-14 is thought to have a 164-to-1 record of air-to-air kills and losses. The number is a little soft, though, since it takes data from multiple services including Iran.F/A-18 Cleaning
(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Donell Bryant)
Yeah, there are a lot of planes on the list. And the F-18 was the Navy’s answer to the high and rising costs of the F-14. Congress told it to find a cheaper plane to fill some slots that would otherwise require the F-14, but then the cost of the F-18 program ballooned from billion to billion despite the F-18 having less range, speed, and ordnance carrying capability.
The F-18 would prove itself though, later leading the Navy to brag that it had broken “all records for tactical aircraft in availability, reliability and maintainability.” During Desert Storm, individual planes could shoot down Iraqi jets and take out ground targets on the same mission. It was the Navy’s primary air combatant for decades.
The B-1B Lancer
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)
The B-1 Bomber bucked the trend of bomber design in the late 1960s. Most were focused on faster, higher-flying bombers that could fly over enemy air defenses and outrun fighter taking off for intercepts. But the B-1 was envisioned as a low-flying bomber that would maneuver through air defenses instead. But the costly development was controversial, and the B-1 bomber was canceled in 1977.
But Reagan revived the program in 1981, and the requirements of the plane were changed, slowing it to Mach 1.2 and increasing the required payload. The production B-1B debuted in 1984 and “holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class,” according to Airman Magazine. It has flown over Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and accounts for 40 percent or more of bombs dropped during some periods of conflict in those countries.
The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.
The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.
The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”
The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.
See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:
Kelly Johnson wasn’t the first man to build an airplane, nor was he the first to push the limits of what an airplane could do, but few men have played a more vital role in shaping mankind’s ascent into the skies.
According to the latest expert estimates, human beings just like you and I have been walking on earth for over 200,000 years. That figure gets even tougher to wrap your head around when you consider that a mere 200 years ago, mankind had yet to develop matches or typewriters. A century ago, we didn’t have antibiotics or movies with sound. These, along with countless other advancements, played a roll in a technological revolution that continues to this day, like a snowball rolling down hill, enveloping everything in its path.
Of course, mankind didn’t come by these incredible advancements by accident (most often, anyway) and behind each groundbreaking technology is a man or woman, dedicated to solving the problems of their day, and to getting out in front of those coming tomorrow. Nowhere is this human-driven rapid advancement of technology more prevalent than in one of our species most recent civilization-altering breakthroughs: aviation.
Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson with famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. (Lockheed Martin)
In 1903, the Wright Brothers first took flight in Kitty Hawk. Less than forty years later, the first B-29 took to the skies with a pressurized cabin and a wingspan that stretched further than the length of Orville Wright’s entire first flight. A mere 19 years after that, Yuri Gagarin flew in space.
There’s no doubt that countless hands, hearts, and minds played vital roles in our rapid progression from the steam engine to the SpaceX Starship, but even amid this sea of engineers and aviation pioneers, some names stick out. Because while millions may have helped mankind reach the sky, some men’s contributions stand head and shoulders above the rest; Men, like Kelly Johnson.
Forged in the fires of World War II
Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson was born in 1910, seven years after the Wright Brothers changed the world in Kitty Hawk. The son of Swedish immigrants, Johnson would win his first prize for aircraft design at the age of 13. By the time he was 22 years old, he was working as an engineer at the legendary aviation firm Lockheed.
At 28, Kelly Johnson’s role at Lockheed would bring him to London, where the island nation was preparing for the onslaught of Nazi Luftwaffe fighters and bombers that were to come just three years later in the Battle of Britain. The British were unconvinced that such a young man could produce an aircraft that could turn the tides of an air war, but the fruit of Kelly Johnson’s labor, dubbed the P-38 Lightning, would go on to become one of the most iconic airframes of the entire war.
Steve Hinton flies “Glacier Girl,” a P-38 Lightning dug out from 268 feet of ice in eastern Greenland in 1992. The aircraft was part of a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)
At the start of the fighting in Europe, many Allied air units were still operating bi-planes. By the end of World War II, Kelly Johnson and his team delivered the United States its first ever operational jet-powered fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Johnson had been tasked with building an aircraft around the new Halford H.1B turbojet engine that could compete with Germany’s Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe. In just an astonishing 143 days, Kelly had gone from the drawing board to delivering the first operational P-80s.
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (WikiMedia Commons)
The original Skunk Works
It was during World War II that Kelly Johnson and fellow engineer Ben Rich first established what was to become the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works. Today, the Skunk Works name is synonymous with some of the most advanced aircraft ever to take to the skies, but its earliest iteration was nothing more than a walled-off portion of a factory in which Johnson and his team experimented with new technologies for the P-38, developing the first 400 mile-per-hour fighter in the world for their trouble, in the XP-38.
XP-38 (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Later, Kelly’s secretive team again came through with the P-80, and again with the design and production of the C-130 Hercules, which remains in service for the U.S. and a number of other Air Forces around the world today. Then, in 1955, they received yet another seemingly impossible assignment: The United States needed an aircraft that could fly so high it could avoid being shot down, or potentially even detected.
Soviet Radar and intercept fighters of the era were limited to altitudes below 65,000 feet, and the highest any American aircraft could reach was just 48,000. In order to continue keeping tabs on the Soviets, the Air Force solicited requests for an airplane that could fly at an astonishing 70,000 feet with a long 1,500 mile fuel range.
Clarence L. Kelly Johnson, chief designer at Lockheeds secret Skunk Works facility, initially designed the U-2 around the F-104 Starfighter fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works responded with a design that they claimed could fly as high as 73,000 feet with a range of 1,600 miles, based on the Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter, a slender and supersonic intercept fighter. The Air Force rejected his design… but it caught the attention of America’s secretive spy agency, the CIA.
President Eisenhower wanted eyes on the Soviet nuclear program, and Johnson’s unusual aircraft design with long slender wings and no retractable landing gear seemed like it could do the job, despite its shortcomings. Johnson and his team were given a contract to design and build their high-flying spy plane, and in just eight months, they delivered the U-2 Dragon Lady.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
In order to test this incredible new aircraft, Kelly Johnson needed a remote air strip, far from the prying eyes of the American public. He chose a dry lake bed in Nevada for the job, and it proved particularly well suited for testing classified aircraft. Eventually, that little airstrip and accompanying hangars and office buildings would come to be known popularly as Area 51.
Taking spy planes to the next level
The U-2 may have been an immense success, but just as aviation advancements were coming quickly, so too were air defenses. In 1960, Soviet surface-to-air missiles finally managed to get a piece of a CIA operated U-2 flown by pilot Gary Powers. The aircraft was flying at 70,000 feet, higher than the Americans thought could be spotted or targeted by Soviet radar, when it was struck by an SA-2 Guideline missile. Powers had to ride the Dragon Lady down from 70,000 feet to 30,000 feet before he could safely eject, and as the secretive spy plane plummeted to the ground, Kelly Johnson and his team at Skunk Works were already developing a platform to replace it.
With spy satellites still more than a decade away, the United States needed a new aircraft it could rely on to keep tabs on the Soviets. It would need to not only fly higher than the U-2, but faster–much faster, so even if it was detected, no missile could reach it.
SR-71 Blackbird (NASA)
Johnson and his team designed a twin-engine aircraft with astonishing capabilities in the A-12, which then led to the operational SR-71 Blackbird — an aircraft that retains the title of fastest operational plane in history to this very day. Lockheed’s SR-71 could sustain speeds in excess of Mach 3.2, flying at altitudes higher than 78,000 feet. During its 43 years in service, the SR-71 had over 4,000 missiles fired at it from ground assets and other aircraft. Not a single one ever found its target.
Another aviation revolution
Kelly Johnson and the team at Skunk Works were on the cutting edge of speed and power, but as the Cold War raged on, it was Johnson and his team that recognized how the battle space was shifting. For years, the United States had focused on developing aircraft that could fly ever faster and ever higher, but with the advent of computer-aided engineering, yet another technological leap was within Lockheed’s grasp.
Johnson and his team needed to develop an aircraft that could defeat detection from not only enemy radar, but also other common forms of detection and targeting, like infrared. Using the most advanced computers available at the time, Skunk Works first developed an unusual angular design they dubbed “the hopeless diamond,” as it seemed unlikely that such a shape could ever produce aerodynamic lift.
Undaunted, development continued and by 1976, they had built a flyable prototype. The aircraft was called Have Blue, and it would lead to the first operational stealth aircraft ever in service to any nation, the legendary F-117 Nighthawk.
Have Blue flying in testing (WikiMedia Commons)
The F-117, or “stealth fighter” as it would come to be known, played a vital role in America’s combat operations over Iraq in Desert Storm and elsewhere, but this program produced more than battlefield engagements. The technology developed for the F-117 directly led to America’s premier stealth fighters of today: the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The latter of those two is expected to serve as the backbone of America’s air superiority strategy for decades to come.
Kelly Johnson (Lockheed Martin)
“The damn Swede can actually see air.”
In total, Kelly Johnson had a hand in the design and development of some 40 aircraft for commercial and military purposes, with seemingly countless awards and credits to his name for his engineering prowess. The man had a genuine affection for his work, to the degree that he turned down the presidency of Lockheed on three separate occasions to retain his role within the Skunk Works he helped to found.
Kelly’s boss at Lockheed, Hall Hibbard, once exclaimed, “The damn Swede can actually see air,” as he tried to understand how one man managed to play such a pivotal role in so many aircraft, and in turn, in how the Cold War unfolded. Finally, Kelly retired in 1975, but remained a senior advisor to Skunk Works for years thereafter.
He passed away in 1990 at age 80, just one year before the United States, with all its incredible military technology, would emerge the victor of the Cold War.
In a clear message to Russian forces, three US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew an extended sortie over the Arctic Circle for the first time on Sept. 5, 2019, the Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing confirmed to Insider.
“This familiarization was the B-2’s first mission this far north in the European theater,” according to a Facebook post from the US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.
Details about the sortie over the Norwegian Sea are scarce, but the aircraft involved completed a night refueling over the Arctic Circle as part of Bomber Task Force Europe. In March, Norway accused Russia of jamming its GPS systems and interfering in encrypted communications systems.
“Training outside the U.S. enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace, and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges,” US Air Force spokesman Capt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder told Insider.
A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
The B-2s are part of the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They are deployed to Royal Air Force Base Fairford near Gloucestershire, England where last month they flew with non-US F-35s for the first time. RAF Fairford is the forward operating location for US Air Force in Europe’s bombers.
Four KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing stationed at RAF Mildenhall joined the B-2s on the mission over the Norwegian Sea.
A spokesperson from the 509th Bomb Wing told Insider that no other NATO aircraft were involved in the mission, and the bombers did not have any ammunition on board.
A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Last month, the B-2 also made its very first visit to Iceland, establishing the Air Force’s presence in a region Russia considers its dominion. Iceland’s Keflavik Air Base was established during the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviet Union, and the B-2s’ brief stopoff there demonstrated its ability to operate in cold-weather conditions.
In the past year, US forces have completed several missions from the region to deter Russian aggression against NATO allies, including B-52 training near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia forcibly took in 2014. That aggression kicked off the European Deterrance Initiative to ensure quick reaction to threats and assure NATO allies of the US’s commitment to defense.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With the decommissioning of the interim afloat staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), the Navy removed the prototype Laser Weapon System that had been on the ship which was built as an Austin-class amphibious transport. The Ponce’s replacement, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), did not get the laser.
Now, according to a report by the Daily Star, we have found out the lucky vessel that did get the laser. That ship is the San Antonio-class amphibious transport USS Portland (LPD 27).
The Portland was commissioned in the middle of December, and is slated to be home-ported in San Diego. The vessel will not only test the Laser Weapon System, it will also serve as flagship for the upcoming RIMPAC exercise.
The United States sent the Laser Weapon System to the Middle East, where after a series of demonstrations, the captain of USS Ponce was authorized to use it as a defensive weapon. The Ponce was decommissioned last summer, and had been the subject of a rumored purchase by Argentina.
The Portland displaces 25,000 tons, and has a top speed of 22 knots. According to the Sixteenth Edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, it can carry two LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion), roughly 700 Marines, and up to four helicopters. It is armed with the Mk 31 launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns.
Other laser programs have been in the works as well. One concept involved installing a pallet with a High-Energy Fiber Laser on a H-60 airframe, turning a Blackhawk or Seahawk into a Laserhawk. The Army also tested a laser weapon on the AH-64 Apache. Both the Blackhawk and Apache had the ability to guide missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-123 Skipper with lasers. Another laser known as ATHENA was used to shoot down drones in another recent test.
It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.
Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)
The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.
And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)
The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.
Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.
The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)
The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.
Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.
The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)
Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.
All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)
First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.
So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.
This article was sponsored by Altama.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the field, then you likely understand the importance of having quality gear. It can make your life easier and more comfortable, and that alone is worth its weight in gold. One of the most crucial pieces of gear (and often uncelebrated) is a good pair of boots. Not only do you need a pair that will provide protection, support, and comfort; durability, affordability, moisture management, and longevity are other important traits to consider.
While there are a number of brands and styles to choose from, few companies have a reputation, credibility, and legacy like Altama, who has been providing footwear for the military for over 50 years. In fact, Altama is the largest footwear manufacturer for the Department of Defense. They even employ a team of military and civilian volunteers to put their boots through their paces to ensure they perform in real-life scenarios.
But no matter which boots you strap into, here are a few things you should consider when choosing your next pair.
While this might seem like the most obvious reason to purchase a good pair of boots, this wasn’t always a primary consideration. In fact, way back in the day, before the Civil War, many boots issued to troops didn’t even have a specific left or right boot. Each troop was expected to break in each pair through extended wear. As you can imagine, this made the shoe less expensive to produce, but also extremely uncomfortable, often resulting in blisters and soreness.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. Now, the top manufacturers make use of lightweight, durable materials, like knit and mesh, to improve comfort. Technical additions, like a full shank (a load bearing insert made of Nylon or other hard material), help the wearer by diminishing the load on his/her calves, arches, and knees. This has been particularly important as our service men and women find themselves carrying heavy loads on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2. Sole Toughness
A durable, non-slip sole is a must-have for operators. Operating in different topographies, such as deserts, mountains, jungles, forests, and urban environments, demands a versatile sole that can handle all surfaces and situations. Altama footwear has incorporated a high-abrasion, rubber sticky outsole into their Urban Assault shoe, which draws its inspiration from rock climbing shoes. This sole also happens to comply with OSHA standards regarding slip resistance and features a zero-drop sole which is believed to promote more of a midfoot landing, reducing wear and tear on the knees. This feature also promotes increased stability, as it offers greater contact with the floor.
3. Moisture Management
Whether you are operating in water, or simply in a hot, sweat-inducing environment, having footwear that’s suited for the task is key. Boots that keep your feet wet for prolonged periods of time can lead to problems with blisters and, in extreme cases, trench foot.
So, how do you know which shoe is right for you? Altama’s Urban Assault shoe, for example, incorporates air mesh linings that help to quickly wick sweat and moisture away from your foot. This, coupled with a chunky knit vent, promotes airflow around your foot. And, most importantly (at least to your battle buddies) it also includes an anti-microbial PU foam insole, which helps manage nasty odor.
Altama’s Maritime Assault shoe, on the other hand, features a fin-friendly fit and free-flow side drainage vents that allow water to exit the shoe for amphibious missions. The fast-dry lining also eliminates the need for a sock that’s susceptible to sogginess.
Altama has been designing footwear for over 50 years with our law enforcement and military members in mind. Check out their full line of tactical boots and shoes. Discounts are available for active duty, veteran, and law enforcement members.
This article was sponsored by Altama.
A pleasant drive through a farming community a little south of Phoenix, Arizona, leads to a dirt driveway with a sign that reads, “Wuertz Farm.” As cars file in past the miniature donkeys and horse corrals, a gentleman directs drivers where to park. A cameraman with a pack that appears to be tethered to a 100-ft extension cord works to get a live feed on a large flat screen TV. What may sound like a trip to the state fair is the opening scene to the Wuertz Machine Works 2019 Hammer In.
Travis Wuertz welcomes the crowd at the start of the 2019 Hammer In.
The Hammer In is a gathering of bladesmiths from around the country, who come to share and exchange knowledge of their ancient craft. As one might expect, there is no shortage of beards on site, but not everyone is shrouded in Viking-style facial hair. A quiet young lady with a secret passion for bladesmithing stands alone, trying to warm herself in the morning sun, while a fifteen-year-old bladesmith of two years shows off some of his amazing work to his adult colleagues. Regardless of age, gender, experience, or skill, it is immediately apparent that this is a brotherhood like no other — a brotherhood of steel.
The beautiful work of 15-year-old bladesmith Zander Nichols.
Not so primitive
While the perception of some may be that bladesmithing is a primitive craft, the reality is quite different. There is an old Japanese proverb, “On-ko Chi-shin,” which literally translates, “Study the old, know the new.” The idea is that by studying the old ways, one can better understand the new ways. This very concept can be seen in practice by the astute observer within seconds of setting foot into the Wuertz Hammer In.
A hundred-year-old power hammer that has been retrofitted with an electric motor sits just feet always from a self-regulating, ribbon-burner forge, built by Travis Wuertz himself. As an engineer who is constantly looking to refine his bladesmithing, Travis designed a forge that not only distributes heat consistently throughout using a ribbon burner design, but also automatically adjusts to maintain a consistent temperature, and monitors the gas/oxygen mixture for efficient fueling. The design ensures very precise control during the forging process, where overheating can result in damaged steel.
A not-so-primitive self-regulating, ribbon burner forge in action.
Mareko Maumasi, a Forged in Fire champion from Connecticut, and a wizard of Damascus steel, can be seen splayed over a large white easel pad working out a complex mathematical equation. When asked about it, he explains that it is an equation for predicting Damascus patterning. Apparently, there is more to it that just mixing hard and mild steels.
Old dogs and new tricks
Throughout the two-day gathering, both young and seasoned bladesmiths deliver periods of instruction on topics in which they are highly skilled. Michael Quesenberry, who specializes in daggers, bowies, and forged integrals, kicked off the event with a demonstration of how he forges his integral knives. An integral knife is one in which the blade, bolsters, tang, and pommel are forged from a single steel billet. With finesse and precision, Quesenberry hammers a round billet into an integral knife in less than an hour.
Michael Quesenberry demonstrates how he forges his integral knives.
William Brigham awed attendees with a detailed explanation of Mokume-gane, a Japanese metalworking process used to bond a mixture of metals to produce a distinctive layered pattern, similar to wood grain. Mokume-gane loosely translates to “wood grain metal.” This process was originally used in Japanese sword-making to produce highly aesthetic accoutrements like the Tsuba (guard) and now serves modern bladesmiths in like manner.
A gathering such as this could not take place without plenty of talk about Damascus steel. Mike Tyre and Eric Fleming gave an informative lecture about feather Damascus. This technique involves stacking many layers of steel several inches tall and using a dull wedge to split through and stretch the layers. A feather-like pattern is the result when the sections are rejoined and flattened out. Mareko Maumasi also gave a mathematically-charged lecture on mosaic Damascus, and shared the cold coffee etching recipe that he uses to create the deep color contrast his blades are known for.
Mareko Maumasi lectures the crowd on Mosaic Damascus.
At one point during the second day, one of the ABS Master Bladesmiths attending the event turned to this author and said, “You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s not a whole lot I haven’t seen or don’t know how to do when it comes to making knives, but these new guys are taking things to a whole new level.”
Fit & finish
Any bladesmith worth their salt will tell you the clean finish and precise fitting of a blade to the handle and accessories is what truly distinguishes the master craftsman. This requires the ability to work around a grinder to cut, shape, refine, and polish the blade, handle, and fittings. Mike Quesenberry demonstrated his mastery of fit and finish with a handle shaping demonstration and a blade grinding demonstration. There are few blade designs that challenge a bladesmith’s symmetrical grinding ability like a dagger, and Quesenberry showed us why he is one of the best at making daggers.
A well-used TW-90 grinder, the invention of Travis Wuertz himself.
Of course, the Wuertz Hammer In would not be complete without a demo from Travis Wuertz himself. Travis has designed the most coveted knife making grinder on the planet, the TW-90, so he finished up the two-day event with some of his tips and tricks for precise grinding and finishing using his grinder and the myriad of attachments he has designed to make the knife maker’s life a whole lot easier.
At rare events like this, where bladesmiths and knife enthusiasts gather from all over the country, there’s not much desire to go back to the hotel at the end of the day, rather the real fun begins when the day is “over.” The hammers come out, the forges are lit, and sparks begin flying in the darkness of night as the intimate exchange of information takes place and the good times roll.
Perhaps the most attention-grabbing after-hours activity was the knife throwing class taught by Jason Johnson, an expert knife thrower and Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Season 1 finalist. Johnson instructed participants in his instinctive and powerful knife-throwing technique prior to turning them loose on the firing line, so they could try their hands at sticking some knives. It was an impressive sight to see even the young kids sticking knives into the wooden targets at various ranges after only a few minutes of instruction from Johnson.
Knife Throwing expert Jason Johnson schools us on his personal method.
Wrapping it up
At the end of this two-day venture, new friendships have made, old friendships have been rekindled, and this brotherhood of steel is alive evermore. These bladesmiths are bonded by the blood, sweat, and tears that flow through down the anvil and the spirit of fire that burns through the forge. They part ways with the kinds of hugs and handshakes that only those of a kindred spirit can share. Until they meet again.
A coffee-etched kitchen knife created by Don Nguyen of Tucson, AZ.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.