Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Anyone who says “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” has clearly never seen a Challenger 2 tank in action. The Challenger was first introduced in 1993 and has seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Iraq War. In all that time, not one was ever lost to the enemy. This is a tank designed to protect its crew.

The Challenger 2 main battle tank is a direct upgrade from the Challenger 1, introduced just ten years before. Instead of being built by the government of the United Kingdom like its predecessor, the Challenger 2 was built by privately-owned companies, as if you needed more proof that capitalism is better than socialism.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
A Challenger 2 tank on Castlemartin Ranges in Pembrokeshire, Wales fires a ‘Squash-Head’ practice round. (Image courtesy of Cpl Si Longworth RLC)

Differences between the two may not be apparent at first sight, but they’re there. The upgraded Challenger 2 main battle tank has an improved gun sight, improved ceramic composite armor and a steel underbelly lined with more armor as part of a “streetfighter” upgrade, just to name a few. 

That armor served it well during its combat debut in 2003. By 2001, the Challenger 1 had been completely replaced by the Challenger 2. When the UK went to war in Iraq alongside the United States, it was finally able to bring its new tank to a fight. They were worth every pound and penny.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein probably wished he had a couple hundred of these tanks, because the British laid waste to the tanks he did have. A team of special operators from the British 40 Commando cleared the way to Basra with the help of 12 Challenger 2 tanks from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Challengers knocked out 14 Russian-built T-54 and T-55 tanks in the fighting while suffering only two damaged.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank patrolling outside Basra, Iraq (Graeme Main, UK Defense Imagery)

In fact, no Challenger tanks were ever lost to the enemy during the entire Iraq War, although some should have been. In 2006, a British Challenger was hit by at least 15 RPGs during a fight near the Iraqi city of al-Amarah. During the battle, one of the RPGs penetrated the under armor of the tank. The driver lost a foot in the blast, but was able to withdraw the tank to safety.

The next year, an improvised explosive device also broke through the tank’s underbelly, wounding another driver, who lost both legs. The tank and the rest of the crew were just fine and the Ministry of Defense upgraded the tank’s lower armor to further protect the crews from this kind of attack. 

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Challenger 2 with armour upgrades to the sides of the turret, skirts, bar armour to rear. Smoke grenade launchers visible on turret front. Counter-IED ECM antennas are on the platform on the turret, and additional ECM equipment overhangs the left and right front fenders. A remote controlled weapon systems (RCWS) has also been fitted to the turret. (Cpl Russ Nolan RLC/MOD)

On only one occasion was a Challenger tank destroyed in combat, and it came at the hands of another Challenger in a friendly fire incident. During the fight for Basra in 2003, one Challenger mistakenly targeted friendly British forces while using its thermal guidance system. A high-explosive round hit the tank’s open hatch, starting a fire that spread to its ammunition stores. The ammunition detonated, destroying the tank from the inside. 

Despite the tragic loss of life of the crews and the injuries sustained by Challenger drivers in the Iraq War, the survivability of a Challenger tank is almost unparalleled anywhere else in the world. It’s no wonder that the British government decided to upgrade more than a hundred Challenger 2 tanks, for what will soon become the Challenger 3. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the site the 2020 Mars rover will explore

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five year search, during which every available detail of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions — and past microbial life — but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.


“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera.

(NASA photo)

Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the “sky crane” descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

(NASA photo)

“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest — places with the most interesting geological features, for example — where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

More information about NASA’s exploration of Mars is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army bars soldiers from using TikTok on government phones

The US Army has barred its soldiers from using TikTok following mounting fears from US lawmakers that the Chinese tech company could pose a national security threat.

Military.com was the first to report the new policy decision, which is a reversal of the Army’s earlier stance on the popular short-form video app.


A spokeswoman told Military.com that the US Army had come to consider TikTok a “cyberthreat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.” The US Navy took a similar decision to bar the app from government phones last month.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

(U.S. Navy Photo by Gary Nichols)

TikTok is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, and its links to Beijing have prompted intense scrutiny from US politicians as the app’s popularity has skyrocketed. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York successfully requested an Army investigation into the app’s handling of user data in November, and numerous reports have emerged of the platform censoring content it thinks could anger the Chinese government.

TikTok has strenuously denied any allegations of Chinese state influence, and in its first transparency report claimed that China had made zero censorship requests in the first half of 2019.

Numerous reports have surfaced that the company is exploring strategies for distancing itself from its Chinese roots, including a US rebrand, building a headquarters outside China, and selling off a majority stake in its business.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force is shelling out $131 million for these smart bombs

Lockheed Martin received a $131 million contract from the US Air Force for follow-on production of Paveway II Plus Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) kits.


The contract represents the ninth consecutive year in which the USAF selected Lockheed Martin to provide the majority share of LGB kits in the annual competition. The award also includes all available funding for the service’s foreign military sales and replacement kits.

“The USAF and its foreign military sales partners realize significant savings in their defense budgets with our affordable and combat-proven LGBs,” said Joe Serra, Precision Guided Systems director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “This innovative and cost-effective guidance package supports greater precision for warfighters.”

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
An F-15E Strike Eagle flies with a Lockheed Martin Paveway II Plus GBU-12 (500-lb) LGB (left) in flight exercises. Photo from USAF.

Paveway II Plus includes an enhanced guidance package that improves accuracy over legacy LGBs. Qualified for full and unrestricted operational employment in GBU-10, -12, and -16 (1,000 pound) configurations, Paveway II Plus is cleared for use on USAF, US Navy, and international aircraft authorized to carry and release LGBs. Lockheed Martin has been a qualified supplier of Paveway II LGB kits since 2001 and has delivered over 100,000 kits to customers.

Production of the guidance kits and air foil groups for GBU-10 (2,000 pound) and GBU-12 (500 pound) LGBs will begin in first quarter of 2018.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
A B-52 Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing drops a Paveway II Plus LGB GBU-12 (500 pound) during a training mission at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. File photo courtesy USAF.

In addition to the Paveway II Plus LGB, Lockheed Martin’s 350,000-square-foot production facility in Archbald, Pa., is the sole provider of the Enhanced Laser Guided Training Round and Paragon™ direct attack munition. Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 160,000 training rounds and 7,000 dual-mode LGB kits to the US Navy, USMC, USAF, and 24 international customers.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These cheap Chinese combat drones are headed to Europe

Chinese combat drones are reportedly headed to Europe for the first time, highlighting China’s growing presence in an important part of the international arms market as countries around the world look more closely at unmanned systems for warfighting.

Serbia is expected to take delivery of nine Chengdu Pterodactyl-1 (Wing Loong) drones within the next six months, and there may be a follow-up order of 15 more, Stars and Stripes reported Sep. 10, 2019, citing local media reports and officials.

The outlet said that this move “marks Beijing’s most significant foray into a continent where armed forces have traditionally relied on US and European weapon-makers.”


Serbia expressed interest in acquiring Chinese drones for its military last year, Defense News reported last September. Serbia has said that it intends to purchase weapons and military equipment from multiple suppliers, to include China.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Chinese multi-role UAV Wing Loong.

“This (sale) will greatly strengthen the Serbian military, which will gain capabilities it has not had in the past,” Serbian Defense Minister Aleksander Vulin said in an interview with state media Sep. 10, 2019, Stars and Stripes reported. A military analyst in Belgrade explained that “the Chinese have very good pilot-less aircraft, probably second only to the United States,” adding that “they obviously copied some American systems (but) Chinese drones are very effective and very cheap.”

The Wing Loong combat drones look a lot like the US military’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. They have been sold to several countries across the Middle East, as well as parts of Central and South Asia, and have even seen combat.

Sam Brannen, an expert with the Risk and Foresight Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense One last year that the Chinese have essentially “given the world a ‘Huawei option’ when it comes to next-gen drones.”

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

“It’s a far cry from what the US or Europeans would offer, but it’s going to be on the market for sale,” he added.

And, many countries, especially those which have faced challenges acquiring this technology from the US due to tough export restrictions, are buying Chinese drones. China has sold a number of drones across the Middle East, to include not just the Wing Loong, but also other models like the Caihong (Rainbow) series which the producer calls “the most popular military drones in the world.”

By exporting unmanned systems, even if the Chinese drones offer only technological similarity rather than parity to US systems, China moves up the ladder in the international arms market, potentially opening the door to new transactions on other systems, defense deals, and possibly even greater global influence.

China, according to Chinese state media reports, has already signaled a keen interest in exporting some of the stealth drones it is developing.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SpaceX Starlink satellites are already messing with astronomical research

Elon Musk’s plan to station thousands of satellites above the Earth is already starting to annoy astronomers.

Starlink is the project launched by Elon Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX which aims to put up to 42,000 satellites in orbit with the aim of bringing high-speed internet to even the most remote corners of the globe.

Though only 120 of the satellites are up and running, they’re already wreaking havoc with astronomical research.

The brightness of the satellites mean that when they cross a piece of sky being watched by a telescope, they leave bright streaks that obscure stars and other celestial objects.


Last week astronomer Clarae Martínez-Vázquez of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile tweeted that 19 Starlink satellites crossed the sky and disrupted the work of the observatory because they were so bright they affected its exposure. “Rather depressing… This is not cool,” she added.

Dr Dave Clements of Imperial College London told Business Insider that SpaceX is applying a typically Silicon Valley approach to Starlink, rushing it through without fully thinking through the consequences.

“I’m very concerned about the impact of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation on all aspects of astronomy,” he said.

“Move fast and break things might be workable when you’re breaking a competitor’s business model or the outdated assumptions of an industry, but in this case Musk is breaking the night sky for personal profit. That is unacceptable, and is not something you can fix when you’re out of beta. The launches should stop until a solution is agreed with astronomers, professional and amateur.”

Clements added that the Starlink satellites also interfere with radio astronomy.

“They transmit in bands used by radio astronomers, especially at high frequencies. While these bands are used by other transmitters on the ground, we cope with that by having radio silent preserves around the telescopes. This won’t work when the Sky is full of bright satellite transmitters so Musk might be ruining several kinds of astronomy at once,” he said.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

View of Starlink satellites.

(Public domain)

Researchers working on a new state-of-the-art observatory due to open next year told the Guardian that private satellites launched by SpaceX, Amazon, and other private firms threaten to jeopardise their work.

Astronomers at the yet-to-open Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) ran simulations which suggested the vast majority of images taken by the telescope could be ruined by bright private satellites passing by.

The disruption caused by Starlink has not come as a surprise to the scientific community.

When SpaceX launched its last batch of 60 satellites earlier this month James Lowenthal, Professor of Astronomy at Smith College told the New York Times the project could majorly complicate astronomical research. “It potentially threatens the science of astronomy itself,” he said.

SpaceX was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US will pay countries not to buy arms from Russia

It was a program designed by the State Department to help the former Warsaw Pact countries break away from dependence on the Russian economy – the United States would straight up pay the newly liberated former Soviet Union allies to buy American-made weapons instead of buying them from their former patron.


That program is back, and the United States is expanding it.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

A Russian-built Hind helicopter in the Macedonian Air Force

It’s called the European Recapitalization Incentive Program and Eastern Europe is signing on for arms made in the good ol’ US of A. But the U.S. isn’t stopping at limiting Russian influence through arms sales, the American government is using the program to limit arms sales from China too. It’s a function of the State Department working hand-in-hand with the Pentagon in an effort to project American economic power and military goodwill.

“The goal is to help our partners break away from the Russian supply chain [and] logistics chain that allows Russian contractors and service personnel, and Russian-manufactured spare parts onto either NATO allied bases or partner military bases,” a State Department official told Defense One.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

A Russian-built T-72 tank in the Slovakian Army.

The countries signing on to the revitalized program can’t just promise not to buy Russian or Chinese weapons from now on. They will also need to get rid of their old ones as well as purchase new American replacements. So instead of gifting these countries a hodgepodge of military arms or vehicles, the countries can invest in American military power while getting rid of old systems and updating their military capabilities. Some of the partner countries are still using Soviet-built weapons.

In the past year, the U.S. State Department has signed on six former Soviet Bloc countries to the program to the tune of 0 million, including Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, North Macedonia, and Slovakia. The program will even bring these countries up to NATO standards in many areas. If successful, the U.S. will expand the program beyond Eastern Europe to help other countries break free of Chinese and Russian dependence.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

As Captain America and Iron Man prepare for their civil war, they probably don’t realize they have competition coming from the U.S. military. The Department of Defense wants troops with super strength, telepathy, and immunity from pain. Here are 8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to create super soldiers:


1. Bulletproof clothes made of carbon chainmail

 

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Photo: US Marine Corps

 

Researchers tested the potential ballistic protection of graphene by firing tiny bullets of gold at it. They found that the material was stronger, more flexible, and lighter than both the ballistic plates and the kevlar vests troops wear. And, a million layers of the stuff would be only 1 millimeter thick.

MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is working on an effective manufacturing method for graphene-based chainmail, potentially giving troops better protection from a T-shirt than they currently get from bulky vests.

2. Synthetic blood

Synthetic blood would be much more efficient than natural cells. The most promising technology being investigated is a respirocyte, a theoretical red blood cell made from diamonds that could contain gasses at pressures of nearly 15,000 psi and exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen the same way real blood cells do.

Super soldiers with respirocytes mixed with their natural blood would essentially have trillions of miniature air tanks inside their body, meaning they would never run out of breath and could spend hours underwater without other equipment.

3. Seven-foot leaps and a 25 mph sprint

Scientists at MIT and other research universities are looking for ways to augment the human ankle and Achilles tendon with bionic boots that mimic kangaroo tendons. Humans equipped with such boots would be able to leap seven feet or more, sprint at inhuman speeds, and run all day without wearing out their muscles.

4. Pain immunizations

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Photo: Lance Cpl. Andrew Kuppers

DARPA’s Persistence in Combat initiative aims to help soldiers bounce back almost immediately from wounds. Pain immunizations would work for 30 days and eliminate the inflammation that causes lasting agony after an injury. So, soldiers could feel the initial burst of anguish from a bullet strike, but the pain would fade in seconds. The soldiers could treat themselves and keep fighting until medically evacuated.

5. Freedom from sleep

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Photo: US Army

Not all animals sleep the same way. DARPA wants to find a way to let humans sleep with only half of their brain at a time like whales and dolphins or possibly even skip sleep for long periods of time like ENU mice, a genetically-engineered species of mouse, do.

6. Telepathy

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Not all brain implants look very comfortable. Illustration: U.S. Patent Application Richard A. Normann

Part of DARPA’s “Brain Machine Interface” project is the development of better computer chips that can directly connect to a human brain via implants. In addition to allowing soldiers to control robotics with thought alone, this would allow squads to communicate via telepathy.

While the chips are already improving, the project has some detractors. One offshoot of the research is the ability to remote control mice via implanted chips, and some defense scientists worry about the risk of troops having their minds hacked.

7. Powered underwear

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Photo: Department of Defense

 

While the Harvard researchers working on it prefer the term “soft exoskeleton,” the DARPA-funded robotic suit is essentially a series of fabric muscles worn under the clothes that assist the wearer in each step or movement. This reduces fatigue and increases strength without requiring the huge amounts of power that bulkier, rigid exoskeletons need.

8. Gecko-like climbing gloves and shoes

 

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank
Photo: Youtube/Stanford

 

Geckos use tiny hairs on their feet to grab onto surfaces on the molecular level. While the “Z-Man” project wouldn’t necessarily give humans the ability to crawl along a ceiling like a gecko, special climbing gloves and shoes would allow soldiers to easily climb sheer rock faces or up skyscrapers without any other equipment, drastically easing an assault on the high ground and effectively turning them into super soldiers.

Researchers have made breakthroughs and can actually support up to a 200-pound man with current prototypes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

How many airmen does it take to change a cargo aircraft tire? Too many, according to J.D. Bales, Air Force Research Laboratory and Junior Force Warfighter Operations team member of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

The 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, who maintain the US Air Force’s largest aircraft, the C-5M Super Galaxy, contacted the JFWORX team seeking assistance to increase the safety and decrease the manpower requirements of the current tire-changing process.


Each C-5 tire wears down approximately 0.002 inches per landing on an aircraft that has 28 tires. The current tire changing method is performed several times a week. It is a complicated multistep procedure that requires up to five people working together for an extended period of time with a number of safety risks due to the size and weight of the tires and tools.

The design of the hub consists of a single large nut that holds the wheel in place. Heavy tools ensure placement of the wheel (almost 4 feet in diameter). The spanner wrench, used to tighten the nut, weighs 15 pounds and has to be held accurately in position so the nut can be tightened to the appropriate torque specification.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

The rear wheel assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft inside a hangar at Travis Air Force Base, California, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Current C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement requires up to five airmen with a multitude of tools to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

The new C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement platform requires only three airmen with one tool to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

The nose and main landing gear tires of a C-5M Super Galaxy hang over a parking spot at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Two 30-ton tripod aircraft jacks hold up the nose section of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, remove a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, both crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, install a new C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly to the main landing gear bogie at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Airman 1st Class Nathan Shull, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, cleans the number four main landing gear bogie assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, front, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects the main landing gear brake assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, rolls a defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

A defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly prior to being taken away for maintenance April 22, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

The primary technical focus of JFWORX projects is the rapid development of customer-centric projects that will provide real-world solutions to existing warfighter needs.

JFWORX develops near term, innovative solutions to warfighter operational needs. Department of Defense organizations interested in working with the JFWORX team can contact the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Corporate Communications team at AFRL.RX.CorpComm@us.af.mil to learn more.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.

The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.


The AI Advantage

vimeo.com

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL

Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”

This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.

“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”

In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.

TACE: Can We Trust A.I.?

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The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.

“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The crazy steam-powered gun of the Civil War

The Civil War was one of the first industrialized wars, helping lead the world from battles conducted by marching men with muskets around each other on a large field to battles fought between small, quick-moving formations with repeating rifles, quick-firing guns, and higher-powered artillery. But not all of the weapon designs that debuted had a lasting effect on warfare.


And one of the designs that fell by the wayside was the quite weird “steam-powered cannon.”

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

As the world entered the late 1800s, breakthroughs in technology like steam engines and metallurgy allowed the world to make great industrial breakthroughs, and weapon designers hoped to harness those breakthroughs to make the U.S. military more powerful.

William Joslin and Charles S. Dickinson thought the breakthroughs in steam could make a lost weapon design suddenly work: Steam-powered guns. And they had a plan to greatly increase the rate of fire of weapons, possibly as high as 400 rounds per minute. And this was when muskets fired at 3 rounds per minute.

Historically, steam powered guns worked similarly to a conventional rifle, but instead of relying on gunpowder exploding to create high pressure and propel the bullet out of the barrel, they featured a chamber filled with water that would be heated into steam.

When water is heated into steam, it expands to 1,600 times its starting volume. So, it can give a bullet plenty of umph, but it takes a lot of time and heat to build up the pressure necessary to fire the weapon.

But Joslin and Dickinson were at the forefront of a new, steam-powered weapon design. Instead of using steam to build up pressure in the firing chamber, a steam engine would quickly rotate a mechanism and fire the round using centrifugal force.

Basically, this is a mechanized version of David and his sling to hit Goliath, but at 400 rounds per second.

The design showed promise, but the inventors had a falling out, so Dickinson created his own version and won funding for a prototype in 1860. By 1861, it was on display in Baltimore. History buffs will notice that the Civil War started in 1861, so this was an auspicious time to show off a new weapon design. Which, yes, could fire 400 balls per minute.

A steam engine powered a rotary wheel that flung ball ammunition in a closed circle before releasing it at high speeds from a barrel that could pivot within a large metal shield protecting the crew. The entire device was weighty, requiring a large boiler in addition to the barrel, rotary, and shield, and typically had to be moved with horses.

A member of the crew needed to keep feeding balls into the weapon as it tore through rounds. And it wasn’t horribly accurate, so they really needed to keep the balls going. While the weapon is sometimes described as a cannon, it fired .38-caliber rounds, larger than a 7.62mm round but still 24 percent smaller than a .50-cal.

But the worst shortcoming of the weapon was the actual speed of the rounds when they left the barrel. The centrifugal force couldn’t generate nearly the velocity that a chemically propelled or even steam-pressured round enjoyed. In fact, the Mythbusters built one and tested it, and they couldn’t get the rounds to pierce a pig at just a few feet.

Media coverage of the weapon at the time managed to muddle up some details, and the weapon became associated with Ross Winans, a states-right activist and steam expert in Maryland. The public became worried that this was a super weapon and Winans could deliver it to the Confederacy. The weapon even became known as the Winans Gun.

Baltimore police seized the weapon and then returned it to Dickinson who later tried to sell it to the Confederates. Union forces seized the weapon and it served during the war in a number of defensive positions at infrastructure in the North, but it never saw combat.

Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

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Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

While it would be cool to say that the weapon went on to change warfare or inspire new weapons that were wildly successful, the truth is that the invention of the Gatling gun and then proper machine guns made the steam-powered Winans Gun unnecessary.

And while the Winans showed some promise during the Civil War, when its high rate of fire made it seem worth the effort to improve the weapon’s muzzle velocity, other weapon breakthroughs that were incompatible with the Winans relegated it to the dustbin.

The increased prevalence of rifled barrels didn’t work well with centrifugal weapons, and weapon cartridges allowed other weapons to catch up in rate of fire but didn’t benefit centrifugal weapons. And as it became clear that attacking forces needed to become more mobile, a massive weapon requiring a steam boiler was a clear loser.

Steam obviously still has a role in warfare, nearly all nuclear-powered weapons we’ve ever designed used steam to carry the power from the reactor. But steam projectiles have, sadly, disappeared, ruining our plans for the SteamPunk Revolution.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the F-117 Nighthawk was so groundbreaking

When you think of goblins, the mythical creatures portrayed in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films might come to mind. Traditionally, the goblin has been a mischievous, sneaky monster. So, in one sense, it’s fitting that this cunning creature found its way into the nickname of the first operational stealth aircraft.

The F-117 Nighthawk was nicknamed the “Wobblin’ Goblin,” mostly due to its handling characteristics — after all, it didn’t look like a conventional plane and it required computer assistance to remain in controlled flight. It might not sound ideal, but those were some of the realities of flying the first operational stealth fighter. Well, more accurately, it was a light bomber that usually carried two GBU-10 laser-guided bombs or four GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.

While most planes using laser-guided bombs on high-value targets often faced greater risk, the F-117 was perfectly suited for the task.


The reason? It was extremely hard to detect on radar. It was, for all intents and purposes, invisible to enemy forces on the ground, effectively negating many surface-to-air missiles of the time. With that, the F-117 was able to operate at the best possible altitude and fly the best possible profiles for covertly deploying laser-guided bombs.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

F-117s en route to Saudi Arabia.

(USAF)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-117 was initially in service in 1983, a “black project” that operated in the Nevada desert for five years until the Air Force officially acknowledged it. The plane made its combat debut in Panama, where the planes achieved their objective. In Desert Storm, they hit many heavily-defended targets, flying 1,200 sorties with no losses. Often, the only warning that a F-117 was attacking was when its target blew up.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

A F-117 gets fuel from a KC-10 Extender.

(USAF)

The F-117 also saw combat over the Balkans, where one was shot down, and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. With the introduction of the F-22 Raptor, the F-117 was eventually retired and taken back to the Nevada desert, where these high-tech Goblins lurk in case they’re needed again.

Learn more about this sneaky plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJv722N5OtA

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MIGHTY SPORTS

NFL helmet makers will upgrade US troops with the same tech

Bullets and shrapnel are no longer the biggest threat to U.S. troops. In fact, it’s not even on the battlefields where most of the damage is done to our troops. Eighty percent of traumatic brain injuries in the military are caused by blunt impact sustained during training and in other non-deployed settings. The National Institute of Health estimates chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury caused by repeated blows to the head, is the result of these constant impacts.

If “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the condition many retired NFL players struggle with in later years: CTE. Now that roads between the U.S. Military and the National Football League intersect, the NFL’s helmet producer is stepping up to tackle the problem.


Every year, more and more deceased NFL players are found to have struggled with CTE. Meanwhile, four out of five U.S. military personnel who experienced post-traumatic stress are also found to suffer from CTE. That might be what prompted the medical staff at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to reach out to NFL helmet maker, VICIS, to see how they could team up.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

(NFL)

“The main thing is the current combat helmets are … not optimized for blunt impact protection and that’s what football helmets are designed to do, protect against blunt impact,” VICIS CEO and co-founder Dave Marver told the Associated Press. “And so what we’re doing, rather than working to replace the shell of the combat helmet, which is good at ballistic protection, we’re actually replacing the inner padding, which is currently just foam.”

The U.S. Army and VICIS are using experimental technology, the same used by the Seattle Seahawks, to put what they learned working with the NFL to use for American troops.

“Most startup companies you have to stay focused and get your initial product out,” says Marver, “but we felt so strongly about the need to better protect warfighters.”

VICIS and the Army announced this initiative in the Spring of 2018 and estimate the new helmet should be tested and in the hands (and on the heads) of American troops within two years. VICIS’ Zero1 football helmet ranks consistently high in player protection and laboratory test. That’s the kind of technology the company will send to the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center in its experimental models.

The focus on helmet safety in the NFL is the result of a rise of reported cases of CTE in deceased and retired NFL players. In response, the National Football League increased its investment in concussion research, tightened the rules surrounding concussed players on the field, and, along with the NFL Players Association, reviewed all the helmets used by NFL teams to reject designs that don’t actually protect the wearer.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

It starts with its padding system.

(VICIS)

According to VICIS, the current helmets are designed to defend against ballistic weapons, but most of the military’s head trauma is a result of blunt force impact during training. VICIS military helmets are able to cut the force inflicted on the wearer by half when compared to some of the helmets currently in use.

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

(VICIS)

The current cost of a VICIS football helmet is id=”listicle-2611426115″,500.00 while the U.S. military’s current helmet carries a smaller price tag of 2.00. Still, it’s a small price to pay when compared to the cost of the VA caring for TBI-injured veterans over the course of a lifetime — an estimated .2 billion over ten years.

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