On July 1, 2019, Boeing announced that T-X aircraft N381TX flew the first official Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) flight test from Boeing’s St Louis plant in Missouri. Boeing did not disclose further details about this flight although the Chief T-X Test Pilot, Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, said: “She flew just superb. First EMD test points went off without a hitch”.
The aircraft is one of the two company-funded prototypes built for the Air Force T-X Advanced Pilot Training program and modified into the EMD design after the first flight test campaign. The two aircraft performed 72 test flights between December 2016 and December 2018, gathering data ahead of the EMD testing. During the last months, Boeing and Saab (rear fuselage supplier for T-X) modified the prototypes with ACES 5 ejection seat, an updated On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and other minor changes. Boeing is counting on completing the critical design review of the final EMD configuration by the end of 2019.
The two T-X prototypes in formation during a flight test.
The U.S. Air Force awarded the $ 9.2 billion T-X contract to Boeing and Saab in September 2018 for 350 trainer aircraft, 46 ground-based training systems and related ground equipment, with other 125 aircraft on option.
The first five aircraft and seven simulators will be delivered to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph (Texas) in 2023, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned by the end of 2024 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) planned by 2034. The T-X trainer is due to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, the world’s first supersonic and most produced jet trainer, that has been in service for over 50 years.
The new aircraft is powered by a single General Electric Aviation F404 engine (the same engine used by the Saab Gripen C/D and legacy F/A-18) and has a design similar to the F/A-18, with leading-edge root extensions (LERX) and twin tails that can provide high performance training for pilots that will fly US front-line fighters. The cockpit features a touchscreen large-area display (LAD), digital Up-Front Controller (UFC) and standby instruments, Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls and a low profile Head-Up Display (HUD), much like the F-35 cockpit or the proposed cockpits for Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Block III and F-15X and Saab’s Gripen E.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Enemy drones have been a pain. In the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has come up with IEDs mounted on drones. So, what can be done with these pesky things? Sometimes, you just can’t shoot `em down due to the risk of collateral damage. But letting them do their thing is not a good option, either.
Fortunately, Battelle has come up with a solution to the problems created by the proliferation of drones amongst terrorist groups and other assorted no-goodniks. Furthermore, it also can greatly reduce the risk of collateral damage.
The DroneDefender, displayed at the AirSpaceCyber expo held at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, looks like an oversized rifle. It doesn’t fire a shot in the normal sense, but it does jam the frequencies used to remotely control the drones. It can also jam GPS signals, in case the drone is operating through the use of waypoints. In short, the drone has no clue where it is going, and so, it will default to going home.
The system has an effective range of 400 meters – roughly a quarter-mile. It can be used for two hours continuously and has a rechargeable battery. It weighs 15 pounds, or a little more than half the weight of the .50-caliber Barrett M107 rifle. The system is battery powered, and the battery can be recharged.
Now, here is the bad news. You can’t get one of these for yourself. According to the project’s web site, “Under current law, the DroneDefender device may be used in the United States only by authorized employees of the Federal government and its agencies, and use by others may be illegal.”
You can see a video of the DroneDefender during U.S. Army training below.
Eight Ivy Division snipers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team field tested an upgrade to the Army’s sniper rifle in the shadows of the fabled Rocky Mountains.
Engineered as an upgrade to the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) was redesigned to enhance a sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability, according to Maj. Mindy Brown, CSASS test officer with the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational test Command.
Upgrades being tested include increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.
A sniper team fires the M110E1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear during operational testing at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Brown said the purpose of the operational test is to collect performance data and soldier feedback to inform the Army’s procurement decision regarding the rifle.
“We do this by having the snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” Brown said.
“In doing this, we achieve a twofold benefit for the Army as we test modernization efforts while simultaneously building unit — or in this case — sniper readiness.”
She went on to explain how the 2nd IBCT snipers stressed the rifles as only operators can, during the 10-day record test.
The snipers fired 8,000 rounds from various positions while wearing individual protective and tactical equipment as well as their Ghillie suits and cold weather gear.
A sniper engages targets from behind a barrier during the short-range tactical scenario of the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
To also test how the CSASS allowed snipers to shoot, move, and communicate in a realistic combat environment, they also executed Situational Training Exercise (STX) force-on-force missions in what they described as, “the best sniper training they’d received since attending Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga.”
The 2nd IBCT snipers really pushed each other, testing the CSASS in what evolved into a competitive environment on the ranges.
“Despite single-digit frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and wet snow, the snipers really impressed me with their levels of motivation and competitive drive to outshoot each other,” said Sgt. 1st Class Isidro Pardo, CSASS Test Team NCOIC with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.
An agreed upon highlight of the test among the snipers was the force-on-force day and night STX Lanes.
A test sniper occupies an observation post and conducts counter-sniper operations on a dismounted Situational Tactical Exercise Lane at Fort Carson, Colo..
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Sniper teams were pitted against one another on tactical lanes in natural environmental and Urban Terrain to see who could infiltrate, detect, and engage whom first.
Staff Sgt. Cameron Canales, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment said, “The force-on-force STX lanes were an extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft.”
One other sniper, Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, from Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment said he really enjoyed all the “trigger time” with the CSASS.
A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Sherwood said he was able to learn from the other test snipers and improve his field craft.
“In a regular sniper section, I would never get this much trigger time with a sniper rifle or be issued nearly as much ammunition to train with in a fiscal year, let alone a 10-day period,” he said.
While OTC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, 2nd IBCT snipers and OTC’s CSASS Test Team are a testament to the importance of the half century relationship between the Operational Force and the test community.
“As we move into a period of focused modernization, now, more than ever, that relationship is decisive to ensuring only the best materiel capability solutions make it into the hands of the men and women in uniform serving on the front lines around the world and at home,” Brown said.
If you’ve ever sat in a treestand with the sun in your eyes, or spent a day on the water or at the range fighting the glare, then you know the importance of having adequate eyewear. While Leupold is probably not the first name you think of when you think of eyewear, well, it should be.
Leupold released their new line of performance eyewear this year at SHOT Show, and now it is available for purchase. The new line features five designs to address a myriad of needs: the Katmai, Becnara, Packout, Switchback, and Tracer. While individual models are designed to meet different needs, all models share some pretty awesome features.
“Leupold consumers expect the highest-quality optics in the world, and that’s exactly what we’re delivering with the Performance Eyewear line,” said Zach Bird, Product Line Manager for Leupold & Stevens, Inc. “There’s a style for every need, and they’re all packed with top-of-the-line features. Plus, every model is proudly designed, machined, and assembled right here in the USA.”
The Becnara fuses Leupold performance with everyday style.
Features for Everyone
All five frame styles are made from lightweight, ballistic-rated materials and ship with scratch-resistant, polarized lenses that are reminiscent of what we love about Leupold riflescopes- resilience and clarity. Leupold’s Guard-ion hydrophobic coating sheds dirt, water, and fingerprints for a clear, crisp image, while Diamondcoat-hardened lenses prevent surface scratches. A no-slip bridge design provides all day comfort with soft-touch rubber bridge pads. Daylight Max technology provides complete UV protection for optimal performance in any environment. Additionally, three of the five styles – the Packout, Switchback, and Tracer – meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1 high-velocity impact standards for eye protection.
The Tracer is a must-have for any diehard shooter.
“Whether you’re talking about riflescopes, reflex sights, mounting systems, or observational equipment, our products have always outperformed the competition under the harshest conditions, without fail,” said Tim Lesser, Vice President of Product Development for Leupold Stevens, Inc. “Now, with the Performance Eyewear line, we’re applying that same expertise to a new line of optics, so you can experience Leupold’s rugged clarity every day.”
For more information on Leupold products, please visit us at Leupold.com.
Join the discussion on Facebook at Facebook.com/LeupoldOptics, on Twitter at Twitter.com/LeupoldOptics, or on Instagram at Instagram.com/LeupoldOptics.
The Switchback was designed with hunters and shooters in mind.
Founded in Oregon more than a century ago, Leupold Stevens, Inc. is a fifth-generation, family-owned company that designs, machines and assembles its riflescopes, mounting systems, tactical/Gold Ring spotting scopes, and Performance Eyewear in the USA. The product lines include rifle, handgun and spotting scopes; binoculars; rangefinders; mounting systems; and optical tools, accessories and Pro Gear.
Decades before America’s Space Shuttle would roar into the sky, the United States already had plans to field a reusable spaceplane. Born out of Germany’s World War II efforts to create a bomber that could attack New York and continue on to the Pacific, Boeing’s X-20 Dyna-Soar was to be a single-seat craft boosted into the sky atop American rockets.
It would soar in the sky in the blurred line between earth’s atmosphere and the vacuum of space, bouncing along the heavens before releasing its payload over Soviet targets miles below. The X-20 was a 1950s science fiction fever dream born of the nuclear age and the earliest days of the Cold War… And according to some experts, it very likely would have worked.
Operation Paperclip and the burgeoning Cold War
As World War II came to a close, the United States and Soviet Union’s relationship with one another was already beginning to sour. Nazi Germany’s war machine had torn through the continent, often on the backs of Germany’s state-of-the-art military technology, but geopolitics is a game of theater and pragmatism in equal measure. While the world ached for justice, defense officials in both America and the Soviet Union already saw the Cold War looming large on the horizon. Justice mattered in the minds of these leaders, but not quite as much as surviving the next great conflict to come.
Nazi technology had given Germany an advantage on multiple military fronts, and both America and the Soviet Union knew the scientists responsible for these technological leaps would soon be looking for a means to escape prosecution for their roles in the conflict. Both nations, recognizing the strategic advantage their knowledge could offer, quickly set about capturing as many Nazi scientists and researchers as they could. In the United States, this effort to leverage Germany’s scientists came to be known as Operation Paperclip.
In all, Operation Paperclip, which was organized by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and largely executed by the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, brought some 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States following the war, where they were given roles in America’s ongoing military and technological efforts. NASA’s famed Wernher von Braun, the man who developed the Saturn V rocket that brought America to the moon, was perhaps the most high profile German scientist to come through Paperclip, but among the others were Walter Dornberger and Krafft Ehricke.
In their newfound roles at Bell Aircraft, an American aircraft manufacturing firm, Dornberger and Ehricke first proposed the concept of a sort of vertical-launched bomber and missile in one. In Germany, they had called this theoretical platform the Silbervogel, or Silver Fish. Today, the plan seems quite logical: The vehicle would be sent aloft atop a rocket booster and propelled all the way into a sub-orbital but exoatmospheric altitude where it would briefly enter space, before gliding down toward the atmosphere and being “bounced” back up thanks to the vehicle’s wings.
Today, the idea of launching a reusable spaceplane into a suborbital altitude practically sounds run of the mill, thanks to similar concepts being leveraged by everything from nuclear ICBMs to the most advanced, cutting-edge hypersonic weapons, but Dornberger and Ehricke’s proposal was submitted in 1952 — five years before the Soviet Union would launch the world’s first man-made satellite into orbit. Operation Paperclip was devised specifically to leverage Germany’s scientists to help kick-start America’s own exotic military programs, and in hindsight, it’s hard to argue that the effort wasn’t a success, regardless of the ethical implications.
Working in the shadow of Sputnik
On October 1, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first man-made satellite. It was a small, metal sphere, measuring only about 23 inches in diameter, with four external radio antennas trailing behind it broadcasting signal pulses back to Soviet scientists, as well as the rest of the world. What followed has come to be known as the “Sputnik Crisis” in the Western world.
America had been the de facto world leader in terms of both military and economic might following the end of the Second World War, but the success of Sputnik placed America’s supremacy into question. The Soviets had matched America’s nuclear weapons with a test of their own in 1949, and again with the hydrogen bomb in 1953. Now, instead of matching America’s success, the Soviets were starting to take an intimidating lead.
The United States had taken to developing Dornberger and Ehricke’s concept in three separate programs: a rocket bomber (RoBo), a long-range reconnaissance vehicle (Brass Bell), and hypersonic weapons research. Just days after Sputnik 1 launched, the U.S. re-organized their efforts, combing all three programs into the new single Weapons System 464L program, also known as Dyna-Soar.
The new Dyna-Soar effort was to mature in three stages. Dyna-Soar 1 would be a research vehicle. Dyan-Soar 2 would add reconnaissance, and Dyna-Soar 3 would incorporate bombing capabilities. America intended to work fast, planning to test the first iteration by 1963 in glide trials, with powered trials to follow the next year. By then, the Dyna-Soar 2 was expected to exceed Mach 18 in powered flight. A missile based on the Dyna-Soar program was expected to enter service by 1968, with the spaceplane itself operational by 1974.
In order to meet these deadlines, proposals were fielded by both Bell Aircraft and Boeing. Despite Bell’s head start, Boeing ultimately secured the contract and set about work on developing what was to be the X-20 Dyna-Soar.
Building a Dyna-Soar
By 1960, the spaceplanes overall design was largely settled, leveraging a delta-shape and small winglets for control in place of a traditional tail. In order to manage the incredible heat of reentry, the X-20 would use super alloys like the heat-resistant René 41 in its frame, and molybdenum, graphite, and zirconia rods all used for heat shielding on the underside of the craft.
“It was a hot-temperature structure using a nickel super alloy,” said Dr. Richard Hallion, former Air Force chief historian.
“The leading edges of the wing would be made of an even more exotic alloy. There was provision for active cooling.”
That same year, astronauts were chosen to fly America’s new space bomber. Among them was a thirty-year-old Navy test pilot and aeronautical engineer named Neil Armstrong, who would go on to leave the program in 1962.
By the end of that same year, the program was given the designation X-20 and it was unveiled to the public in a ceremony held in Las Vegas. America’s mighty B-52 Stratofortress was chosen to air-drop the X-20 for in-atmosphere flight tests, and the first firing of the rocket booster intended for higher altitude drop-tests was also a success. The project was incredibly ahead of its time, while somehow also being entirely feasible with the technology of the day. In the early 1960s, it seemed all but assured that America would soon be flying space bombers.
Once built, the X-20 Dyna-Soar’s first mock-up measured 35 and a half feet long with a 20.4-foot wingspan. It used three retractable struts for landing. Although it would have its own A-4 or A-9 rocket engine to help it reach an exoatmospheric trajectory, it would effectively glide throughout most of its mission, dipping down into the atmosphere just far enough to create lift, which it would use to bounce back up, skipping across the air enveloping the earth like a stone over a pond. It would continue to skip until it had lost enough velocity to prevent another bounce back up, at which point the pilot would glide the craft back down to earth just like the Space Shuttle.
The X-20 Dyna-Soar goes extinct
Although the X-20 concept was quite literally out of this world, it was still technically feasible, and early tests suggested that the Dyna-Soar may indeed work as advertised. However, the program was also incredibly expensive, and with the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration moving forward with its Gemini program, America’s civilian leaders were becoming more interested in fielding an actual spacecraft they could use to compete with the Soviets, rather than a weapon that offered little in the way of international prestige.
“If we had pursued it as a black-world program like the U-2, it might have gone ahead,” explained Hallion. “I never saw any technical issue that would have been a show stopper.”
On December 10, 1963, the X-20 program was canceled. The United States had invested $410 million in its development, or more than $3.5 billion in 2021 dollars, but the Dyna-Soar was still a long way off from being the space bomber it was intended to become. Even per Hallion’s positive recollection of the effort, the X-20 was still at least two-and-a-half years away from working and would have required at least another $370 million to complete. A space bomber would indeed offer global range, but in 1957, the U.S. Air Force had demonstrated that the B-52, the same bomber tasked with helping test the X-20, could circle the globe all on its own, without any need for pricey rockets.
Upon canceling the X-20 program, the U.S. government diverted its remaining funding to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory effort that used Gemini spacecraft to demonstrate the value of a crewed military presence in Earth’s orbit.
But the X-20 was not completely swallowed up by history. Elements of the program could be found in NASA’s Space Shuttle, and of course, the Space Force’s secretive X-37B bears more than a passing resemblance to the X-20. The X-37B is not touted as a space bomber and almost certainly isn’t, but the reusable spaceplane may, in fact, be one of America’s most capable reconnaissance assets.
But since 1945, submarines have had a mostly dry spell. In fact, most of the warshots fired by subs since then have been Tomahawk cruise missiles on land targets – something Charles Lockwood and Karl Donitz would have found useful.
There are only two submarines that have sunk enemy ships in the more than 70 years since World War II ended.
1. PNS Hangor
The sub that provides the first break in the post World War II dry spell is from Pakistan. The Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor — a French-built Daphne-class boat — was the vessel that pulled it off during operations in the Arabian Sea during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
According to Military-Today.com, a Daphne-class vessel displaced 1,043 tons, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had 12 22-inch torpedo tubes (eight forward, four aft), each pre-loaded.
On Dec. 9, 1971, the Hangor detected two Indian frigates near its position. The submarine’s captain dove deep and got ready to fight.
India had sent two Blackwood-class frigates, INS Khukri and INS Kirpan, out of three built for them by the United Kingdom to patrol in the area. These frigates were designed to hunt submarines. Only this time, the sub hunted them.
According to Bharat-Rakshak.com, the Hangor fired a torpedo at the Kirpan, which dodged. Then the Khukri pressed in for an attack. The Hangor sent a torpedo at the Khukri, and this time scored a hit that left the Indian frigate sinking. The Kirpan tried to attack again, and was targeted with another torpedo for her trouble.
The Kirpan evaded a direct hit, and Indian and Pakistani versions dispute whether that frigate was damaged. The Hangor made her getaway.
It didn’t do India that much harm, though. India won that war, securing the independence of what is now Bangladesh. Pakistan, though, has preserved the Hangor as a museum.
2. HMS Conqueror
Just over 10 years after PNS Hangor ended the dry spell, HMS Conqueror got on the board – and made history herself. The Conqueror so far is the only nuclear submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat.
The Conqueror, a 5,400 ton Churchill-class submarine, was armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. With a top speed of 28 knots, she also didn’t have to come up to recharge batteries. That enabled her to reach the South Atlantic after Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falklands, touching off the Falklands War.
In a sense, the Argentinean cruiser ARA Gen. Belgrano — formerly known as USS Phoenix (CL 46) — really didn’t stand a chance. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the 12,300 ton cruisers were armed with 15 six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and a host of lighter anti-aircraft guns.
As the Gen. Belgrano approached the exclusionary zone declared by the Brits, the Conqueror began to track the cruiser. Finally, on May 2, 1982, she got the orders to attack. The Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes and scored two hits on the cruiser. The General Belgrano went down with 323 souls.
The Conqueror’s attack sent the rest of the Argentinean fleet running back to port. The British eventually re-took the Falkland Islands. The Conqueror is presently awaiting scrapping after being retired in 1990.
Many of the most-well known anti-aircraft missiles are relatively small. The American FIM-92 Stinger is small enough to be carried by one person. The Sparrow can be carried by aircraft or launched from ships, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow made the missile more compact while increasing performance.
But one anti-aircraft missile is simply huge. Meet the SA-5 Gammon, one of Russia’s many Cold War efforts to defend itself from Strategic Air Command’s bombers.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, this missile was huge, over 35 feet long. It had nearly 500 pounds of high explosives in its warhead, and came in at a weight of nearly eight tons. By comparison, the F6F Hellcat, the scourge of the Pacific Theater was 33 feet long, and weighted a bit over six tons. That’s right – this missile is larger than a World War II fighter.
These missiles had a long reach, able to hit targets as far as 250 miles away, and with a top speed of over 5,600 miles per hour. But when it comes to combat, the SA-5’s record has been… spotty. In 1986, these missiles were fired at U.S. Navy jets, and missed.
The batteries didn’t regret their poor marksmanship for long, as A-7 Corsairs used AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, or HARMs, to put the batteries out of action.
The massive plane-killing missile remains in some countries’ inventory, including Iran, India, Poland, Syria and North Korea. Others, like Ukraine, inherited SA-5s after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of Ukraine’s missiles was responsible for the accidental downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner in 2001, killing 78 people. The SA-5 was also notable for being the first kill of the Israeli Arrow missile defense system.
With continued upgrades, the SA-5 will stick around for a while. Check out the video below.
Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.
It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.
The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.
1. It was an easy target.
Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.
Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”
2. The road was a bumpy ride.
All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.
3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.
“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.
In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.
4. The road required constant patrols.
Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.
At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.
5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.
Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.
Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.
Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.
In 1955, the Army made a video about the the two most handsome military police officers in the history of the Army and their foot patrols through U.S. town, providing “moral guidance” for soldiers and interrupting all sorts of trouble before it starts.
Oddly, they don’t write a single speeding ticket, but they do snatch a staff sergeant for driving recklessly.
The military police are moving on foot through the town, learning all the local haunts off base and providing services ranging from giving bus route advice to providing first aid to injured soldiers. They interrupt fights before they happen and let troops know what areas are off limits.
A much wider portfolio than the speed traps they’re known for today.
And the video specifically highlights the “moral services” of the military police officers, which is pretty surprising information for anyone who’s partied with MPs.
The dangerous gunmen that the MPs stop from shooting up Augusta, Georgia.
But even in ’50s propaganda, the MPs get into some blue falcon shenanigans, waking up a soldier waiting on a bus to get onto him about his uniform, then detaining a soldier on pass for looking slightly shady.
They even find an idiot boot playing pool in his G.I. boots.
Their finest moment comes when they catch a wanted soldier carrying the world’s most adorable pistol while loitering near an art studio. Of course, our intrepid heroes catch the ne’er-do-well without a shot fired after drawing on him in the mean streets of Augusta, Georgia.
Actual line in this scene: “Punishment? Well, the sergeant’s company commander will take care of that.” Um, yeah, of course the commander makes the decision, because MPs have all the punitive powers of a Boy Scout.
Hint: If you want to make a group of soldiers look awesome, give them a more forgiving challenge than rolling boots in one of the safest cities in the Union. Maybe highlight their role in maneuver warfare or the way they breach buildings and fight gunmen inside.
The worst infraction the MPs find in this video, outside of the miniature gunfighter, is a stolen valor major at 25:30.
The video is almost 30 minutes long, but has plenty of unintentional humor to keep you chuckling. Check it out up top, and be sure to share it with any MP buddies who get too big for their britches.
The Russian military successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new Borei A-class submarine, the nuclear-powered Knyaz Vladimir, or Prince Vladimir, according to TASS, Russia’s state-run news agency.
The missile, the RSM-56 Bulava, has a range of 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers, or more than 5,000 miles, can carry six to 10 150-kiloton nuclear warheads, and has a yield of 1,150 kilograms. While its speed is unknown, Michael Duitsman, a research associate specializing in Russian missile technology at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury College, estimates it’s in the range of Mach 16 to Mach 20. The Bulava has been in operational use since 2013, and it was fired for the first time from the nuclear-powered submarine on Oct. 29, 2019.
The Prince Vladimir is the first of the Borei A-class submarine, which has better noise reduction and improved communication equipment over the Borei class, Duitsman told Insider via email.
Russian Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarine Alexander Nevsky.
According to the Moscow Times, the missile was launched from the Arkhangelsk region and traveled thousands of miles to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East — across the entire country.
Once it enters service — it is expected to in December — the Borei A-class strategic submarine will carry up to 16 of the Bulava missiles with four to six nuclear warheads each, according to the Moscow Times.
The missile was launched from a submerged position in the White Sea — the same place a devastating nuclear accident occurred in August 2019. In that instance, Russian engineers were attempting to recover a “Skyfall” missile from the bed of the White Sea when the weapon’s nuclear reactor exploded, causing the deaths of at least seven Russians. Russia’s handling of the incident has been referred to as a cover-up by a senior official at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.
Russia’s Prince Vladimir submarine fires a Bulava missile into north Atlantic
The Bulava is understood to have a devastating payload — 50 to 60 times as powerful as the bomb the US dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. But just because it’s powerful, that doesn’t mean the Russian Navy is using the missile to menace its adversaries — in fact, it’s a defensive weapon.
The Bulava “forms part of Russia’s strategic deterrent force; the missiles are not for use in normal combat,” Duitsman told Insider. “Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, deter an enemy from attacking you with nuclear weapons, because it is very difficult to find and destroy all of the submarines.”
The US counterparts to the Borei and the Bulava — the Ohio-class submarines and Trident II missiles — are more powerful in combination than the Russian offerings. The Ohio-class can carry 24 Trident II missiles, which have a longer range at 12,000 kilometers, a speed of Mach 24, and a payload of 2,800 kilograms. But, as Duitsman notes, the Ohio-class is 20 years old, and its replacement, the Columbia-class, isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2031.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.
With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.
The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.
Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.
Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”
id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE
Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.
Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.
The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.
Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.
What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.
A BLUE-SKY OPERATION
The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.
Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.
Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.
Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.
Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.
I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”
FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS
M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.
She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”
To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.
Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.
Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.
Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”
OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY
It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.
Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”
Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”
By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.
On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.
Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”
Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.
There aren’t any real ways to describe what Afghanistan was like to civilians. Life on deployment is just so bizarre that the only thing you can do is compare it to something else.
You could say that it’s a blisteringly hot desert with creepy-ass bugs that’s peppered with some assholes who want us dead, but a more telling analogy would be to compare it to Star Wars‘ desert planet of Tatooine.
But you might find something that someone else might find interesting. Won’t be you though.
(Photo by photo by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski)
Constantly looking around for nothing
There are moments on deployment when things get intense. That’s not up for debate. But there is a significant difference between the number of troops who’ve been deployed and the number of troops who’ve seen actual combat. For the most part, patrols come back having received nothing more than a few glares from the locals.
You might have one of the few grunts who was constantly on-mission for duration of your deployment, but for the other 99.99 percent of us, there’s a lot of nothing going around.
…during which, you guessed it, nothing will happen again.
(Photo by Sgt. Steven Quinata)
Nothing to do if you’re on an outlaying FOB
Even when troops get back to the FOB — surprise! — there’s still nothing going on.
The two-thirds of the “Fobbits” who didn’t join you have nothing interesting to talk about and you’re just twiddling your thumbs waiting until the next time you can go out on patrol.
Chances are, you’re not going to find a droid with an encoded message from a princess, so just enjoy your recording of a movie that came out three years ago.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. David Carbajal)
The locals sell old hand-me-downs
Despite popular civilian belief, you actually can snag some solid quality-of-life things from the local bazaars.
But it’s never anything actually useful — unless you’re interested in a collection of ripped DVDs of some 90s sitcom. It’s like the old hunk-of-junk droids that Luke buys. I mean, yeah, they kick off the Hero’s Journey for Luke, but everyone else who buys that crap is probably going to hawk it off to the next guy.
Definitely smells about the same…
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)
The main airfields were just weird
At first glance, Kandahar Airfield sounds like a Mos Eisley-esque, wretched hive of scum and villainy. Many years ago, that may have been true, but now it’s just… odd.
Everyone from all the NATO nations are headquartered there and with that diversity comes an odd mixture of cultural identities. Everyone seems so happy for no reason, despite there being a literal pond full of sh*t just downwind.
Both aren’t known for their spectacular aim, either.
The terrorists are basically the Tusken Raiders
Terrorists are aggressive and attack when you least expect them to. Once, there was a time when they were feared for their ability in battle.
Truth is, they’re garbage and get wasted pretty fast whenever they show their faces.
It’s hard to differentiate the two sometimes. They’re usually the only fat people people in a war-torn and impoverished nation, but no one ever says anything about it…
(Photo by Sgt. Tracy Smith)
The warlords are basically Jabba the Hutt
The Afghan leadership thinks they have control over the warlords, but they really don’t. No one wants to call them out for their criminal enterprises; it’s not a fight anyone is willing to take.
Accepting that you have to pay off the Hutts to get things done is the norm on Tatooine. It’s basically the same in Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.
(U.S. Air Force)
Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.
After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.
Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.
(U.S. Air Force)
Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.
Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.