Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

Noted astronomer and satellite expert Ralf Vandebergh of Nijswiller, Limburg, Netherlands, spent months searching the skies for one of the Holy Grails of sky spotting, the secretive U.S. Air Force Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. In May 2019, he finally succeeded.

Remarkably, on June 30 and July 2, 2019, that Vandebergh finally captured some rare photos of the secret military spacecraft. Fifty-year veteran space journalist and author of the new book, “Moon Rush: The New Space Race”, Leonard David broke the story about Vandebergh’s sighting and photos on Saturday, July 6, 2019 on LiveScience.com. The photos are now being republished and shared around the world.


Journalist Leonard David quoted astronomer Ralf Vandebergh in his story on LiveScience.com as saying, “When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn’t meet the predicted time and path.” Vandebergh went on to tell Leonard David in his article that, “It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers’ network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2.”

The Air Force’s X-37B began as a test project with NASA in 1999 but was acquired by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004. Most sources list two operational X-37B spacecraft and a single X-37A. The fact that only three exist, their missions and roles are classified and they operate in space makes them incredibly difficult to get photos of, especially when performing an active mission as in Vandebergh’s photos.

Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

www.youtube.com

Even more remarkably, according to Vandebergh’s photo analysis, he may have actually captured the X-37B with its cargo bay door open, performing some type of experiment or operation.

Vandebergh told reporters, “It is really a small object, even at only 300 kilometers [186 miles] altitude, so don’t expect the detail level of ground-based images of the real space shuttle. We can recognize a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail.”

Vandebergh used a 10-inch F/4,8 aperture Newtonian telescope fitted with an Astrolumina ALccd 5L-11 mono CMOS camera to capture his photos. He tracked his elusive quarry across the sky by hand using a small 6×30 spotting scope to line up his telescope for the photos.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

Official USAF photo of X-37B (left) and astronomer Ralf Vandebergh (right).

(USAF and Ralf Vandebergh)

Little is known about the current role of the two X-37Bs and the single X-37A. Most likely the X-37Bs are in some form of “operational test” use with the USAF while the X-37A reportedly remains a combined Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA spacecraft with an equally secretive role.

While most information in the public domain lists both the X-37B and X-37A as “test” vehicles, the X-37B has performed unusually long duration space flights for testing. Remarkably, the current mission being performed by the X-37B in Vandebergh’s photos is designated “Mission OTV-5”. This mission began 670 days ago on September 7, 2017 when it was boosted into orbit on the SpaceX Falcon 9 orbital delivery spacecraft that launched from the NASA facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

While little is known about the actual mission of this current X-37B flight, author Leonard David may provide some insights in his report for LiveScience.com where he wrote:

“X-37B missions are carried out under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and mission control for OTV flights is handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This squadron oversees operations of the X-37B and is tagged as the Air Force Space Command’s premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing, gathering information on objects high above Earth and carrying out other intelligence-gathering duties.”

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force just used its new laser to shoot down a missile

The Air Force Research Laboratory Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration Program successfully completed a major program milestone with the successful surrogate laser weapon system shoot down of multiple air launched missiles in flight, April 23, 2019.

The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that will serve to demonstrate self-defense of aircraft against surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

“This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters,” said Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate director.


During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., April 23, 2019, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator system, was able to engage and shoot down several air-launched missiles in flight.

(Air Force Research Laboratory)

The demonstration is an important step of the SHiELD system development, by validating laser effectiveness against the target missiles. The final SHiELD system, however, will be much smaller and lighter, as well as ruggedized for an airborne environment.

“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed-of-light technology will enable air operation in denied environments. I am proud of the AFRL team advancing our Air Force’s directed energy capability.”

High Energy Laser technology has made significant gains in performance and maturity due to continued research and development by AFRL and others in the science and technology ecosystem. It is considered to be a game changing technology that will bring new capabilities to the warfighter.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 striking photos from 2019 of the US military in action

The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.

Insider took a look back at the thousands of photos of the military in action and selected its favorites.

The following 11 photos, many of which were also Department of Defense favorites, were the ones we chose.


Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Harris)

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

2. A Wyoming Air National Guard C-130 fires flares over Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyo., Sept. 24, 2019, during a training mission.

DoD pick

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicole Rogge)

4. Marines use a fire hose to extinguish a fuel fire during live-burn training at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2019.

DoD pick

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-At-Arms 1st Class Joseph Broyles)

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

6. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan Vasquezninco provides security during small boat raid training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 10, 2019.

DoD pick

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Morton)

8. Three MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters line the seawall at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as the sun rises over the St. Johns River on June 13, 2019.

DoD pick

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(Army Sgt. Henry Villarama)

9. Army paratroopers jump from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over the Bunker drop zone at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 14, 2019.

DoD pick

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

10. An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, two Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs and two F-15 Eagles fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker during a training mission over England, Sept. 16, 2019.

DoD pick

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

11. A service member jumps out of a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey during parachute training at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s designing a weapon that makes enemies vomit, hallucinate

The Russian navy is apparently outfitting its warships with a new naval weapon designed to blind and confuse enemies and, sometimes, make them want to hurl, Russian media said early February 2019.

Filin 5P-42, a non-lethal visual-optical inference device, has been deployed aboard Russian navy frigates Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov, state-run RIA Novosti reported, citing a press statement from Ruselectronics, the company that built the device.

Each frigate, both part of Russia’s Northern Sea Fleet, has been outfitted with two Filin stations. Two additional frigates currently under construction are expected to also carry the blinding weapon.


The new device is a dazzler-type weapon that works like a strobe light, emitting an oscillating beam of high-intensity light that negatively affects an enemy’s ability to aim at night.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

A Russian Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Russia claims that the new naval weapon is capable of “effectively suppressing” sensors and night-vision technology, as well as range finders for anti-tank missiles, Russian media said.

The dazzling weapon was tested against volunteers firing assault weapons, sniper rifles, and machine guns at targets protected by Filin from two kilometers away. All of the participants experienced difficulties aiming, and 45% had complaints of dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. Twenty percent of volunteers experienced what Russian media has characterized as hallucinations. Participants described seeing floating balls of light.

The concept behind “dazzling” weapons has been around for decades in one form or another.

Blinding weapons, particularly lasers, that cause permanent blindness are prohibited by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. As Russia’s weapon reportedly only causes temporary blindness, there would be no legislative restrictions on its use, not that legal issues may be of any real concern.

US-Russian relations sank to a new low Feb. 1, 2019, when the Trump administration announced US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms pact, citing Russian violations of the agreement.

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

Articles

9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

We’ve all seen Marine officer recruiting videos either on TV, on our mobile devices, or posted on a billboard next to the highway. For many, the video’s imagery, music, and testimonials cause young minds to consider joining the Corps — for one reason or another.


The video states what you’re going to learn and what awesome prospects lay ahead. Those who attend and complete the training can move on and serve in the Marine Infantry if that’s the path the individual has set for himself.

But what the training book doesn’t teach you is the role outside of the technical. Life in the Marines as an officer is a proud one, but it’s also stressful.

We sat down with our resident Marine infantry officer Chase Millsap and discussed what you should know before taking on the vital leadership role.

1. Your primary weapon is the field radio

It’s your job as a leader to organize your Marines while taking contact. Knowing how to use your radio to instruct your Marines and coordinate supporting arms is paramount.

Not that type of radio Jean-Claude. (Image via Giphy)

2. You will always eat last

In the Marines, enlisted Leathernecks get to eat their chow before anyone else, which means officers are always at the end of the line.

It’s tradition. (Images via Giphy)

3. You will almost always be the least experienced person starting day one

Everyone has to start out somewhere (unless you’re prior enlisted). Listen and learn as quickly as you can.

No doubt you’ll be motivated the first day though. (Images via Giphy)

4. Physical fitness isn’t optional

The minimum PT score is 300 — just saying. And you’d better never, ever let that squad leader beat you on a unit run.

None of those count, sir. (Images via Giphy)

5. Pony up the big bucks to take care of your grunts

We’re not suggesting you buy everyone in your platoon houses — that’s crazy talk. We mean forking out cash for cigarettes, rip its and dip. It will boost your unit’s morale.

Goodbye hard earned cash. (Images via Giphy)

6. You don’t have to be nice.

But you do need to be fair.

That’s hilarious but it’s so mean. (Images via Giphy)

7. You better know why you’re giving those orders

Having the power to give a Marine an order is a big deal. So you need to be sure that it’s well thought out ahead of time.

Sounds serious. (Images via Giphy)

8. Read these three books

Attacks” by Erwin Rommel, “Fields of fire” by Jim Webb, and “One Bullet Away” by Nate Fick. That is all.

Highlight everything. (Images via Giphy)

9. Most importantly: it’s not about you

It’s about taking care of your Marines.

That look you give when you’re told something you don’t want to hear. (Images via Giphy)

Articles

North Korea just tried to show how it would ‘take on’ the US Navy

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.


The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.

But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.

In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun

In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.

North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission
Photo by Rodong Sinmun

North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.

Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission
Photo by Rodong Sinmun

But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.

In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 military working dogs who saved the day, time and again

They’re your loyal companions, your four-legged best friends, the kind of pal that will be there with the love and enthusiasm you need on a bad day, and the joy and light on a good one. For many of us in the military community, dogs are the cornerstones of our lives.


Not only do they bring us joy at home, but dogs are also an important part of military squads and have been for hundreds of years. They’re useful in times of war and disaster, and service dogs often outrank their human counterparts! Why is that? One reason is because it ensures that the lower-ranking service member will always respect and honor their military dogs. Other lore suggests it’s because they’re just that important to unit morale and readiness. Either way, we love the fact that mil-working dogs are high ranking officers. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known military service dogs.

America’s First War Dog, Stubby

Stubby started life as a wayward stray but found himself in an Army training center in New Haven, CT, during WWI. He ended up on the front lines for much of the war, and on his return from Europe, Stubby participated in several parades and even met three presidents.

What you might not know is that his frequently used moniker, “Sgt. Stubby” wasn’t accurate. In fact, historical biographies report that his rank might have been added posthumously.

Either way, Stubby earned a Purple Heart and more than a dozen awards for his effort in combat. Apparently, he was so well trained that he could sense incoming rounds and helped warn soldiers. There are even reports of Stubby attacking a German spy who tried to sneak into camp.

Stubby died in 1926, and his coat is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Bak, Hero in Afghanistan

Working with his handler, Sgt. Marel Molina and the 93rd Military Working Dog Detachment, 385th Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, Bak was out looking for explosives in Afghanistan’s Jalrez district on March 11, 2013, when local forces opened fire on a blue-on-green attack.

Having been deployed since June 2012, Bak made six major IED finds. On that fateful day in March, Capt. Ander Pedersen-Keeland and Staff Sgt. Rex Schad lost their lives. Bak died later that day from his injuries.

Cairo, part of SEAL Team 6

Like other military working dogs, Cairo was trained to stand guard and alert team members of anyone approaching. The Belgian Malinois was also trained in crowd control, discovering booby traps and had the ability to sniff out bombs. As part of the perimeter security during the mission to Pakistan as part of the bin Laden raid, Cairo’s mission was to enter the building if the SEAL team couldn’t find bin Laden right away.

Lucca, the wounded warrior

This half-German shepherd, half-Belgian Malinois went on 400 patrols, and not a single Marine died under Lucca’s service. On a routine patrol, Lucca had already found nearly 40 explosive devices while an undetected blast went off. Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, Lucca’s handler at the time, ran past the knowing IED and applied a tourniquet to Lucca, carrying the dog back to the safety of a tree line. Lucca lost his left front leg as a result of the blast.

In total, Lucca served six years of active duty before retiring to California with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham. In 2016, Lucca flew to London to receive the Dickin Medal, the highest valor award for animals.

JJackson, Air Force Hero

As part of the tribute to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan wars on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, JJackson, or “JJ” as his handlers called him didn’t have any fancy pedigree to separate him from the rest of the military working dog recruits. But what he did have was heart.

JJ was the first on the field and the last to leave, proving time and again to his handlers that he was unwilling to quit. During one of his missions to Iraq, JJ found a man hiding in an abandoned bus that the platoon he was with had missed. For his time in service, JJ earned an ARCOM.

These five pooches prove that two legs aren’t better than four, and when in need, it’s great to have a dog around.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite last minute reprieve, US and Iran still on the brink of war

President Donald Trump called off airstrikes last minute against Iran, but the reprieve is likely only temporary from a clash that has brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.

Iran’s economy is sputtering under mounting US sanctions that it’s called “economic war” and said it will start enriching uranium and increasing its stockpile beyond the limits set by the nuclear treaty, which the Trump administration walked away from a little over a year ago.

Experts largely believe Iran’s military and its proxy forces, which Tehran supplies and trains, will continue to seek confrontations against the US and its allies across the region due to the sanctions that are damaging Iran’s economy.


“The enemy (Iran) believes it’s acting defensively in light of economic strangulation, which it views as an act of war,” Brett McGurk, the former special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, wrote on Twitter. “That doesn’t justify its acts but makes deterrence via one-off strikes harder perhaps counter-productive.”

Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, which the US has blamed on Iran. The incident prompted anxiety from the UN and US allies, who’ve all preached restraint.

Iran has denied striking the tankers, in the face of a US military video showing what appears to be an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded limpet mine, and claims the downing of the US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone came after warnings it had entered Iranian airspace.

The Iranian attacks aim to raise the political costs of Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran, and Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute previously told INSIDER she expected Iran to “up the ante” against the US, even by kidnapping Americans in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly told Iran that the US will respond with military force if Iran kills any Americans, and so it is unclear how the US would respond to a kidnapping.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

With the US taking no action against Iran for the drone attack other than condemnation, and possibly added sanctions, many experts think Iran has little reason to abandon its attacks.

“Unfortunately it sends a dangerous signal to Iran,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy wrote on Twitter. “US aversion to escalation doesn’t deter Tehran from escalating. And they have every incentive to continue until they get what they want: sanctions relief.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ned Price, former senior director of the National Security Council under President Obama, told INSIDER.

Jon Wolfsthal, who served as the nuclear expert for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, told INSIDER, “Conflict between Iran and US can erupt at any time.”

Wolfsthal said he’s not aware of any new guidance given to military officials to “de-engage or avoid possible actions that could lead to provocations.”

“In fact, I expect drones are flying the same course today,” Wolfsthal added.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to hostilities remains elusive.

Trump warned Iran of the impending, and ultimately halted, military strike via Oman on June 20, 2019, Reuters reported. The president also extended yet another offer to hold talks with Tehran.

An Iranian official told Reuters that a decision on whether to speak to the US would be made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has so far rebuffed Trump’s proposals to hold talks.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 ways to mentor a military girlfriend and renew confidence in yourself at the same time

There are so many resources for military spouses and service members, but the military girlfriends and boyfriends are often forgotten. In military dating life, the best resources possible are the men and women who have been there, done that.


After mentoring a young military girlfriend, I realized after the fact that the experience may have done me just as much good as it did her. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a milspouse/girlfriend and see the many obstacles I’ve overcome in the process.

My husband and I dated for nearly five years before we got married, which included living together for three and a half years. To be honest, this felt like forever, especially since we moved from the East Coast to Alaska during that time. We never experienced the carefree dating experience that some do, as I was a single mom already when we met. I moved to be closer to him within months of the start of our relationship and knew no one in town. I had a minor emergency one day and called him in a panic. He couldn’t physically help me at the moment, but he remembered that one of his coworkers happened to live in my neighborhood, so he connected me with the spouse of said service member. Long story short, she saved my day!

I will never forget my first encounter (as a military girlfriend) with a military spouse. She dropped what she was doing to help out a stranger in need. She told me afterward if I ever needed anything to never hesitate to reach out, and she meant it. She sprinkled snippets of wisdom over me during the next two years whenever our paths crossed. She was brutally honest about the things that frustrated her about military life, but she always did it with a laugh and a follow-up of something she loved about that same life. Fifteen years and many cross-country duty stations later, she is still there on the other end of the line (or Facebook messenger) whenever I need her. Both of us are more “seasoned” now than we were all those years ago, but the truth is we still have value to bring to each other’s lives and military journey. I will be forever grateful for her influence in my life, and I truly feel it set the pace for how I’ve approached every military spouse or girlfriend ever since.

Here are seven ways to mentor a military girlfriend:

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

media.defense.gov

Remember that girlfriends matter too.

We’ve all been there; just some spent much longer unwed than others. Give them hope. Share your pride in your journey. All these new trials are temporary. Some will resurface again from time to time in your military journey (hello PCS), but let her know that with each experience, she will grow and be better prepared to handle it next time. Whatever she’s stressing about, it’s likely you’ve been there. You’ll find yourself after this counseling session with a renewed appreciation for your own experiences.

Pay it forward. 

Someone at some point in your journey held your hand and gave you strength or advice when you needed it most. There’s no one better than a seasoned military spouse to do this as long as you’re mindful and empathetic, not condescending. Sometimes a military girlfriend needs to be reminded that ALL military spouses have been the outsider at some point…no one gets married before spending some amount of time first dating that lucky hero. A good deed like mentoring will always leave you feeling full of gratitude for all who mentored you along the way.

Know that you’re both worth it. 

Simply by giving your time, you are rescuing another from loneliness in some form or another. YOUR soul will benefit from that quality time with her as well. Valuable life lessons you’ve experienced are worth talking about. You never know when your story may help someone down the road. We often have no clue what battles others are facing or when they will arise, so when you take the time to share your personal challenges and victories, you are offering value whether you realize it or not.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

Good vibes.

Teach her to focus on the positive while still being aware of the potential negative. Don’t allow stress to cloud all judgement. Release the weight of what you can’t control, and not only will your life outlook change, but so will your LIFE. Hello? We all need this reminder!

Share your strength.

Unpredictability may be totally new to her. Help her see the perks and seize the opportunities that come her way. No better excuse to “just do it” than knowing that the chance to do so may not last long. Military life offers the perfect time to see just how brave you can be, and in the end, it’s totally empowering!

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

Give her resources.

You’ll find yourself digging through your internal toolkit and will be amazed at what you pull out of there for her! Links, groups, and ideas will all be helpful, and you’ll likely run across a few you forgot existed but quickly realize how handy they will be in your own life again now that they’ve resurfaced.

Show her love.

Teach her about military spouse bonds and how vital it is to build relationships within the community. It’s okay that she isn’t yet married, many of the issues she’s facing don’t discriminate between married/unmarried couples. Show her that she’s never alone and remind yourself of the same while you’re at it. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that one, and it’s one of the most important lessons of all.

Articles

Now you can own an M249 Para

The folks at FN America just unveiled the latest model in their FN Military Collector Series, the FN M249S Para.


It is a civilian version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon developed for paratroopers and, like its full-sized brother, is certain to turn heads when it’s pulled out to send some rounds downrange.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission
Sgt. Craig McComsey, a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard, serving with the Zabul Agribusiness Development Team, keeps a close watch from the roof of the district center, Shah Joy, Afghanistan. (Army photo)

The FN Military Collector Series is a line of faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of the actual government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference the lack of select fire capability.

Read More: Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

While the two rifles in the series take “replica” to a whole new level, the  M249 SAW models take things a step farther. Though semi-automatics rather than machine guns, there just aren’t other guns like this available without signing up for a term of service.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission
(Photo from FN America)

“The M249S Para is the fourth in our series of classic, semi-automatic FN military rifles and like the Standard, the Para is authentic to the last possible detail,” said John Keppeler, senior vice president of sales and marketing for FN America, LLC. “You’ll notice only two major differences between the semi- and full-auto versions — the barrel length and reconfigured internal components to change the rifle’s operation from open-bolt to closed-bolt.”

“Authenticity was critical in this series and we changed as little as possible,” he added.

The FN M249S Para has a machine gun grade 16.1-inch barrel, flip-up feed tray, integrated bipod, and the adjustable telescoping and rotating buttstock. It has an overall length of 31.5 inches to 37 inches and weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds — slightly lighter than the FN M249S Standard.

It can operate with linked ammunition or a standard M16 or M4/AR15 magazine.

Like the M249S Standard, the M249S Para has a top cover with an integrated MIL-STD-1913 rail for optics or other accessories, a folding carrying handle, crossbolt safety, non-reciprocationg charging handle, and quick-change barrel capability.

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission
(Photo from FN America)

While the military M249 Para was originally intended for use by airborne infantry, the weapon’s shorter length and lighter weight have made it popular with many gunners, particularly those who spend a lot of time getting in and out of vehicles and those deployed to urban combat zones where space is tight and ranges are often short.

The FN Military Collector Series guns are top-notch firearms and draw a lot of attention when they’re sighted, but that quality and near-military authenticity does not come cheaply.

The FN M249S Para has an MSRP of $8,799 in black and $9,199 in flat dark earth. But owning and shooting one of these guns, particularly with a belt of 5.56, could make the steep price seem like a good deal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Aardvark was a nuclear-capable supersonic beast

In a day and age where the United States Air Force has a grand total of 76 B-52H Stratofortress, 62 B-1B Lancer, and 20 B-2A Spirit bombers in service, it’s fair to say the United States’ bomber force is quite potent. That said, there aren’t as many in service as there once were.

One plane that once supplemented the bomber force quite well was the F-111 Aardvark. This was a fast, all-weather strike plane that was originally designed to serve both the Air Force and Navy, much like today’s Joint Strike Fighter. While the Navy version didn’t pan out, the Aardvark, after some teething problems, emerged as a reliable strike asset by 1972.


The F-111 could deliver payload. According to Christopher Chant’s Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Aardvark could haul as many as 36 Mk 82 500-pound dumb bombs. By comparison, the B-52 can haul 51 of those same bombs. So, in terms of load, each Aardvark accounted for 70.5 percent of a legendary BUFF.

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This F-111 has Durandal runway-cratering bombs loaded. As you can see, it carries a lot.

(USAF)

As aviation historian Joe Baugher noted, during the F-111A’s deployment to Vietnam as part of Operation Linebacker II, each F-111 was capable of dropping the bomb load of five F-4 Phantoms. Not only could the F-111 deliver one hell of a payload, it could do so very accurately due to advanced radars.

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This F-111F is being prepared for the April, 1986, strike on Libya.

(USAF)

Three newer models of the F-111 — the F-111D, F-111E, and F-111F — all entered service in the 1970s. None of these variants saw action in the Vietnam War, but saw plenty of action elsewhere. The F-111F played a key role in the April, 1986, strikes on Libya and both the F-111E and F-111F saw action in Desert Storm.

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An F-111 drops two dozen Mk 82 500-pound bombs – about half the load a B-52 can carry.

(USAF)

An electronic warfare version of the F-111, the EF-111A, also played a key role in Desert Storm — one even scored a maneuver kill against an Iraqi Mirage F-1!

Today, the F-111 is retired, but would still make a formidable foe in the skies. Learn more about the potent Aardvark in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfBZm3jA2bk

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why making a cup of tea in a British Tank isn’t all that silly

Perhaps even more so than the queen, dry humor, and flavorless foods, Brits love their tea. There’s nothing more stereotypically British than tea. That’s why it’s absolutely hilarious to the rest of the military world that British tanks come standard with a device that can make tea.

That’s right. British tanks come equipped with a “boiling vessel” that, as you can imagine, is commonly used to brew up a cup of tea during the tankers’ downtime. But there’s more to this device than you might think. Yes, it’s there so tankers can fit teatime into their war schedule, but the boiling vessel can also used for a plethora of other things.


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Not much of kettle, but I guess it gets the job done.

(Think Defense Co.)

In complete fairness to our allies across the pond, the boiling vessel is not a kettle installed exclusively for the sake of tea. It’s more of an electric thermos that’s designed for cooking in general. It’ll heat up anything can be put inside, not just hot water — soups, rations, coffee, you name it. And, so it doesn’t get in the way, it’s small enough to be tucked in the back.

So, if you put in some hot water (and clean any residual stuff out), you can theoretically use it for afternoon tea… if that’s your thing.

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It was also said that 37 percent of all tanker casualties during WWII occurred when they were outside of their vehicle. Any little thing to keep them inside, and alive, is a good thing.

(Imperial War Museum)

This little vessel is actually brilliant. All tanks are designed in a way that, should the worst happen, the tankers remain safely in their tanks until they get somewhere better to exit the vehicle. In case of a NBC attack, the tank is completely sealed from the outside world.

Which brings us back to the boiling vessel. There’s no need to exit the “luxurious” interior of the tank to heat up meals for the tankers or risk a potential fire hazard inside.

It might sound like a niche use case, but keep tankers in their tanks during meals was a very serious concern back in WWII. It was said that on June 12th, 1944, just six days after D-Day, a British tank brigade left their respective vehicles for a meeting and for some chow. When the Germans found out the Brits were completely exposed, they struck.

In a matter of 15 minutes, the British lost 14 tanks, nine half-tracks, four gun carriers, and two anti-tank guns at the Battle of Villers-Bocage — because they left their vehicles for just a moment.

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But, for obvious reasons, Americans aren’t as in to tea as the Brits…

(“Boston Tea Party,” W.D. Cooper, engraving, 1789)

The thing is, the Brits aren’t the only ones who have boiling vessels inside their tanks. Nearly every first-world nation has them. Abrams and Bradleys now come standard with them. They’re all fundamentally the same thing, just a fancy water heater that keeps troops safely inside their tanks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Today, the B-1B Lancer is a key part of the United States bomber force. Its conventional bombloads are simply impressive. It is also very, very fast, capable of dashing at over 900 miles per hour, according to an Air Force fact sheet. It serves alongside the B-52. But 40 years ago, the B-1 was seen as the B-52’s replacement.


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Three U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 2nd Bombardement Wing take off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (USAF photo)

Surprised? Don’t be. Ever since the 1960 U-2 incident, when an SA-2 Guideline shot down the plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, the United States Air Force was looking to neutralize these missiles – and the follow-on missiles – often by going higher and faster. This might seem odd, as high-altitude planes could be more easily tracked by radar, but the speed often provides less reaction time.

You see, the B-1B may have been the first iteration of the B-1 to enter service, but it was not the first version to take flight. That distinction goes to the B-1A, and that plane was very different from the Lancer of today.

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A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-1A took flight in 1974. The Air Force was ready to buy 240 planes when on June 30, 1977, Jimmy Carter cancelled the program. The plane had hit a top speed of Mach 2.22, but the price was ballooning. Carter did call for B-52s to be equipped with the AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile, which would later be an option for the B-1B. The development of the B-2 Spirit was also underway as a black project.

However, with the election of Ronald Reagan, the B-1 got new life. Not as a high-altitude bomber, but as a low-level penetrator, with 100 planes produced, a bit over 40 percent of the original plans. It remains in service today, a powerful complement to the B-52. You can see a video of how the B-1 almost put the B-52 out to retirement.

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