In the fast-moving world of defense technology, it pays for contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing to stay on top of Uncle Sam’s spending habits. If you can accurately predict how the government will be looking to spend its massive defense budgets, you can position yourself well to secure tomorrow’s contracts with just a little bit of leg work today–and over the past few years, few have managed to do so as effectively as Boeing.
With so much money being funneled toward stealth and hypersonic platforms over at Lockheed Martin, Boeing has adopted a different angle in its pursuit of tax dollars: leaning into America’s recent love affair with revamping aging platforms for continued use. Instead of offering up costly, all-new aircraft to the Pentagon, Boeing has focused on finding cost-effective ways to keep existing platforms relevant. This effort is not only responsible for the new slew of updated F-15EXs expected to begin production in 2020, but also the sweeping upgrades to the Navy’s Super Hornets that are so substantial, some have taken to calling the Block III version of the fighter, “Super Duper Hornets.”
It’s almost certain that same mindset led Boeing to secure a patent last May that would turn America’s only supersonic heavy payload bomber into the world’s fastest gunship.
With a top speed of Mach 1.2, the Bone would make for one quick cannon-carrier
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)
The B-1B Lancer had a tumultuous start, with the program canceled and revived twice over the span of four sitting presidents only to finally make it into production just in time to see its nuclear delivery mission sidelined by the fall of the Soviet Union. The fighter-like bomber would have to undergo yet another technical shift, converting it into a conventional payload bomber following America’s signing of the START treaty in 1995, before the “Bone” (as aircrews took to calling it) would find its way into the fight. Now, however, with the next generation B-21 Raider slated to enter service in the coming decade, the B-1B has been set to enter retirement just as soon as there are enough new bombers to replace it.
That is, unless Boeing has something to do with it. The patent they secured last year included a number of different cannon options to be added to the swing-wing bomber ranging in size from 25mm to 40mm. Some design options involve opening the bomb-bay doors to reveal the cannon, others have cannons unfolding from the belly of the beast, but the intent is the same in either regard: creating a supersonic platform that can deliver firepower like the legendary AC-130U Spooky Gunship and still outrun whatever trouble may be headed its way.
Deadly AC-130 Gunship in Action Firing All Its Cannons
The Bone’s speed and advanced terrain following flight systems would allow it to fly in contested airspace with minimal detection, something an AC-130 can’t do, and its massive fuel stores and payload capacity mean it could loiter for hours over a target and deliver thousands of pounds of guided bombs between cannon volleys.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the B-1B Gunship concept. Thanks to the swing-wing design, the B-1B may have a lower stall speed than you might find in some other supersonic platforms, but it still seems unlikely that the aircraft can fly slow enough to reliably use a cannon in close air support missions. The B-1B’s biggest proposed cannon, at 40mm, is tiny compared to the 105mm cannon fired from the Spooky Gunship — though that concern could be mitigated by the B-1B’s ability to drop highly accurate ordnance in combination with the hypothetical cannons.
One of the designs includes a cannon that would lower from the Lancer’s belly, while others would rely on opening the bomb bay doors.
(U.S. Patent Office)
The Bone would also be a costly replacement for the much slower AC-130U, to the tune of about ,000 more per flight hour, though one could argue that if they found a way to use the cannon effectively in the B-1B, it would broaden the options for commanders in the field enough to warrant the cost. Because the AC-130U tops out at around 300 miles per hour and is too big to miss with many anti-aircraft weapons, they tend to be used only in nighttime operations in lightly contested or utterly uncontested airspace. The B-1B, on the other hand, could fly close air support missions in far more threatening environments.
Will this concept ever make it off of paper and into American hangars? Well, it’s tough to say. Securing a patent doesn’t mean Uncle Sam is interested in what they’re selling — but having it means it’s always an option on the table, and as the B-1 continues to find new uses in the forms of new anti-ship and stealthy cruise missile armaments, the Air Force may find reason to invest new money in the B-1s future after all. Who knows what the wars of the future might bring.
April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”
Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.
“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”
In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.
Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.
By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).
This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.
“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.
The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.
A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.
Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.
The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.
I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!
There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:
• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation • the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments • the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go • the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better • (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments • (finally) the coffee press
But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.
(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will
A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.
(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)
Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.
The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.
(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)
Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).
(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)
We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.
Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…
(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)
It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”
China has kicked off large-scale military drills in waters near Taiwan just days after warning in a new defense report that it remains ready and willing to use force to achieve reunification.
Drills are being held at both ends of the Taiwan Strait, according to two local maritime safety administration notices marking off the exercise areas.
An area off the coast of Guangdong and Fujian provinces was blocked off from Monday to Friday for military activities in the South China Sea while an area off the coast of Zhejiang province was marked off for military exercises in the East China Sea from Saturday to Thursday, Reuters reported.
Breaking News: China simultaneously conducts major military exercises targeting Taiwan in the East and South China Sea from July 28 to August 02.pic.twitter.com/UABJv9GiIk
The South China Morning Post reports that these exercises may be “routine” drills the Chinese defense ministry recently announced but adds that these appear to be the first simultaneous exercises in the area since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Business Insider was unable to independently confirm this point.
“The main goal of the drills is to practise how to effectively maintain control of the sea and the air amid growing foreign interference in Taiwan affairs,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military analyst, told the Post, explaining that the exercises “serve as a warning to foreign forces that the [People’s Liberation Army] has the resolve to [achieve reunification] with Taiwan.”
A Taiwan-based naval affairs expert said that the PLA was responding to US arms sales to Taiwan and the increasingly routine transits by US Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, a sensitive international waterway.
Earlier this month, the US has also approved a .2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, one that will see the delivery of tanks and surface-to-air missiles able to help Taiwan “maintain a credible defensive capability.”
Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do
Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do
And last week, the US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The move came just one day after the release of a new Chinese defense white paper warning that the Chinese government will not renounce the use of force to achieve reunification with Taiwan.
“We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” the report read. “This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”
“The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs,” the sharply worded warning said.
Commenting specifically on the recent Taiwan Strait transit, the state-run China Daily accused Washington of “raising a finger to what the white paper said about China’s determination to defend its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that if the US “thinks that Beijing will not deliver on this commitment, it is in for a rude awakening.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Monday that it is monitoring Chinese military activities, adding that it remains confident in its ability to defend the homeland and safeguard Taiwan’s freedom, democracy and sovereignty, according to local media.
“The national army continues to reinforce its key defense capacity and is definitely confident and capable of defending the nation’s security,” the ministry said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter crashed on Sept. 28, 2018, in South Carolina just outside Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, several news outlets including ABC News reported, citing military officials.
The military aircraft, recognized as America’s most expensive weapon, went down 5 miles from the air station just before noon ET, The Herald reported, citing the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the Marine Corps. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the newspaper that the pilot ejected safely but was being evaluated for injuries.
The Marine Corps described the crash as a Class A mishap, a serious incident involving more than million in damages or the destruction of the aircraft.
The air station’s website says it is home to five F/A-18 squadrons and one squadron of F-35Bs, according to The Herald.
On Sept. 27, 2018, a US Marine Corps F-35B achieved a major milestone in Afghanistan, making its combat debut against Taliban targets.
While there have been accidents, fires, and incidents involving the F-35 in recent years — such as when an F-35B burst into flames two years ago — this marks the first F-35 crash, the Marine Corps told Business Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marine Corps Systems Command plans to implement a new form of technology that allows the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to identify enemy activity.
The technology employs a vehicle-borne tool that enables Marines to discern what happens inside the electromagnetic spectrum. It connects several independent electronic capabilities into a single unit and allows Marines to manage threats and reactions from a central location.
“Marines are going to be able to make decisions on what they are seeing,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Dono, a team lead in MCSC’s Command Elements Systems.
Marines currently use systems to counter IEDs that block signals used by adversaries to remotely detonate explosive devices. The new technology is a man-packable and vehicle-mounted system, which will be able to be deployed on any Marine vehicle.
“This emergent technology combines a number of current capabilities into one system, thereby reducing the need for additional training and logistic support to manage multiple systems,” said Col. Dave Burton, program manager for Intelligence Systems at MCSC.
Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5 train in searching for improvised explosive devices.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Once fielded, the system will enhance situational awareness on the battlefield.
“We will be able to do all of the functions of similar systems as well as sense and then display what is going on in the electronic spectrum,” said Dono. “Then we can communicate that to Marines for their decision-making process.”
MCSC is taking an evolutionary approach that allows the command to field the equipment faster and then gradually improve the capability as time progresses, Dono said. As the technology evolves, the Marine Corps can make incremental improvements as needed.
The Corps will work with Marines to test a variety of displays that track the electromagnetic spectrum, looking into each display’s user interface. The command can then determine if improvements must be made to ensure usability.
“It’s similar to what Apple does with the iPhone,” explained Dono. “They have many different displays and they want to make it natural and intuitive, so it’s not something that’s clunky, confusing and has to be learned.”
MCSC plans to field the vehicle-mounted system around the first quarter of 2020. When implemented, the equipment will continue to grow in capability to better prepare Marines to take on the digital battlefield.
“This system is important because it is going to allow Marines to operate inside the electromagnetic spectrum, make decisions and act upon that information,” said Dono. “That’s something they’ve never had to consider or think about in the past.”
Those who aspire to one day become a U.S. Air Force aviator must first meet several requirements, including height, before they are considered for pilot training. For those who fall outside of the Air Force’s height requirements, height waivers are available.
“Don’t automatically assume you don’t qualify because of your height,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander. “We have an incredibly thorough process for determining whether you can safely operate our assigned aircraft. Don’t let a number on a website stop you from pursuing a career with the best Air Force in the world.”
The current height requirement to become an Air Force pilot is a standing height of 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 5 inches and a sitting height of 34-40 inches. These standard height requirements have been used for years to ensure candidates will safely fit into an operational aircraft and each of the prerequisite training aircraft. “We’re rewriting these rules to better capture the fact that no two people are the exact same, even if they are the same overall height,” Wills said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Nick Harris (left) and Capt. Jessica Wallander, instructor pilots with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., stand side-by-side to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
“Height restrictions are an operational limitation, not a medical one, but the majority of our aircraft can accommodate pilots from across the height spectrum,” Wills said. “The bottom line is that the vast majority of the folks who are below 5 feet, 4 inches and have applied for a waiver in the past five years have been approved.”
The waiver process begins at each of the commissioning sources for pilot candidates, whether the U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School or Reserve Officer Training Corps. For those who do not meet the standard height requirements, anthropometric measurements are completed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, or at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“We have a great process in place to evaluate and accommodate those who fall outside our published standards,” Wills said. “If an applicant is over 5 feet, 2 inches tall, historically they have a greater than 95% chance of qualifying for service as a pilot. Applicants as short as 4 feet, 11 inches have received waivers in the past five years.”
Anthropometric measurements include sitting eye height, buttocks to knee length and arm span. The anthropometric device at Wright Patterson AFB is the only device accepted by the Air Force when determining waiver eligibility. A specialty team conducts the measurements at U.S. Air Force Academy.
Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, Nineteenth Air Force commander, stands side-by-side with a Nineteenth Air Force pilot to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
Waiver packages are then coordinated through a partnership between the Air Education Training Command surgeon general and Nineteenth Air Force officials, who are responsible for all of the Air Force’s initial flying training.
“As part of the waiver process, we have a team of experts who objectively determine if a candidate’s measurements are acceptable,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, AETC surgeon general. “Let us make the determination if your measures are truly an eliminating issue.”
The pilot waiver system is in place to determine whether pilot applicants of all sizes can safely operate assigned aircraft and applicants who are significantly taller or shorter than average may require special screening.
“Some people may still not qualify,” Wills said. “But, the Air Force is doing everything that we can to make a career in aviation an option for as many people as possible. The waiver process is another example of how we can expand the pool of eligible pilot candidates.”
The Marine Corps reportedly has a saying: “Hunting tanks is fun and easy.”
Popular Mechanics cited that statement last September, but it’s now more true than ever.
That’s thanks to one cool cluster bomb that can take out 40 tanks in one pass.
A September 2016 report by Stars and Stripes noted that while many countries have signed a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, the United States is not among them.
The fear of a major Russian ground force carrying out an invasion has long dominated NATO. In the Cold War, they were likely to come through the Fulda Gap. Today, the Baltics are seen as the likely flashpoint.
However, the U.S. has long anticipated that it would need a way to counter a large number of enemy tanks.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, production of the BLU-108 submunitions used by the CBU-97 started in 1992. Ten of these are carried in each CBU-97, and this bomb can be carried by any plane from an A-10 Thunderbolt to the B-1B Lancer. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the debut of the CBU-105 in Operation Iraqi Freedom caused surviving enemy tank crews to surrender.
Designation-Systems.net notes that with the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit, aircraft can drop this bomb, now called the CBU-105 from up to ten miles away, and be no further than 85 feet from their aimpoint.
The Far Cry video game series has always gone above and beyond in placing the player in a beautiful, open world and pitting them against a cunning and well-written antagonist. The graphics in the most recent installment are as crisp as you’d expect from the series, the gameplay is phenomenal, and plenty of critics are already singing its praise, but what sets this game apart from every other shooter is the storyline.
This time around, instead of exploring some scenic island fighting against drug-running pirates or a prehistoric valley against neanderthals, Far Cry 5 pits the player against deranged cult in a fictional county of Montana.
You play as a Sheriff’s deputy tasked with arresting Joseph Seed, a cult leader who is a mix of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and a hipster douchebag. There’s a palpable eeriness as you walk through his church’s compound and Joseph is seemingly compliant at first. He lets you handcuff him before saying, “you’ll never arrest me.” As you make your way back to the helicopter, one of his followers hurls himself into the propellers, allowing Seed to escape back to his followers, kicking off the game.
The player is then saved by the first of many veterans you’ll encounter in the game, Dutch. He’s a loner Vietnam veteran who has shut himself off in a bunker while the world goes to sh*t outside. Inside his bunker, you’ll find plenty of little references to real-life military units, like an homage to the 82nd Airborne patch (the “AA” has been replaced by the number “82” in the same style) and a patch that’s the shape of the 101st, but with the XVIII Corps’ dragon.
He offers to help you out and gives you something to wear something other than your uniform, which includes (and I’m not making this up) some 5.11 gear.
The next veteran who helps you out is Pastor Jerome Jeffries, a Gulf War veteran turned Catholic priest. He’s holed up in his church with the few citizens who haven’t been indoctrinated by the cult. While there, you set up a resistance to buy time until the National Guard can come reinforce. You must band together with the rag-tag group of remaining people to take down Seed and his followers.
Which brings you to the third main veteran in the storyline, Grace Armstrong, a U.S. Army sniper who deployed to Afghanistan. She’s one of the characters that fights alongside you throughout the game, providing fire support from a good distance.
Though his veteran status remains unknown, you’ll also come across a companion named Boomer. Boomer’s a dog who, if he gets hurt, can be healed with a nice belly rub. It’s the little things in this game that make it amazing.
For a long time, the Coast Guard has used Navy hand-me-downs. After World War II, many old Navy ships were pressed into Coast Guard service when they were no longer needed for defeating the Axis. Even today, the Coast Guard operates a U.S. Navy castoff in USCGC Alex Haley, a former Navy salvage tug. But now, the tides have turned, and the Coast Guard may actually be bailing the Navy out.
The Huntington Ingalls proposal for the FFG(X) program is based on the Bertholf-class national security cutters.
(Department of Homeland Security)
The National Security Cutter hull is currently in production. Right now, the Coast Guard is in the process of building their 10th out of 11 planned vessels.
Also called the Legend-class cutter, this ship is armed with a 57mm gun, about a half-dozen .50-caliber machine guns, and the ability to operate a helicopter, usually a MH-60T Jayhawk. The model displayed last year at SeaAirSpace 2017, the FF4923, also included a 16-cell Mk41 vertical-launch system and eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles. This ship already meets several of the requirements as laid out by the Navy’s FFG(X) program, making it a great launch point.
Three Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates: USS Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG 7), USS Antrim (FFG 20), and USS Jack Williams (FFG 24).
According to spec sheets, the National Security Cutter has a top speed of 28 knots. This is slower than some of the other ships out in contention, notably the Freedom-class LCS and the Bazán-class frigates, but it can out-sprint the FREMM. The good news is that the National Security Cutter is large enough (at 4,500 tons — about 50 percent larger than a Perry-class frigate) to handle the new systems.
The Navy is planning to announce the winning design in 2020. Plans call for at least 20 guided-missile frigates to be purchased over a decade’s time.
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.
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.
An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.
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 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.
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.
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.
The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
There is another contender — the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
So, yeah, there is another massive bomb. It is a heavier bomb — 30,000 pounds compared to the 21,700 of the GBU-43 MOAB. But the 30-foot long GBU-43 is ten feel longer than the GBU-57, and at 40 inches, it is about 8.5 inches wider.
So, what is the deal with the MOP? Why get it when you had MOAB? It’s for the same reason you have a high-explosive round and an armor piercing round.
The MOAB, like the BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter,” is like a giant high-explosive round. It detonates — either with the help of a standoff fuze or a proximity fuze — with the intent of using the blast to clear a large area or to leave a psychological mark on the bad guys.
The MOP, on the other hand, is like an armor-piercing shell. As its name suggests, it is designed to penetrate deep into a heavily-protected facility, then go boom. What sort of facility? Think bunkers and command posts.
The MOP, it should be noted, was also designed to fit inside a strategic bomber, notably the B-2A Spirit; but the B-52 Stratofortress (or BUFF) can also carry it.
Both bombs, by the way, use the Global Positioning System for guidance, allowing them to be dropped from high altitudes.
This not only allows the plane to escape the blast — something that was difficult with the unguided BLU-82 — but it also reduces the threat from air-defense systems. In the case of the MOP, altitude helps it go deeper underground, making sure that buried target you want to go away goes away.
(You can go ahead and make some penetrator jokes now.)