How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

The T-72 main battle tank has been the butt of a lot of jokes. The reason behind most of those jokes is obvious: In Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom it had “performance issues,” to put it lightly. We’re talking firing at an Abrams from 400 yards and having the round bounce off. Or to put it bluntly, the T-72 sucked.


Nonetheless, the Soviet Union foisted the T-72 on many European client states who were coerced into joining the Warsaw Pact. It also was purchased by a lot of folks, predominately in the Middle East, before the design’s issues became as obvious as a turret being blown high into the air in 1991. As a result, many who had them needed to find a way to make the best of the junk they had.

 

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
A view of an Iraqi T-72 main battle tank destroyed in a Coalition attack during Operation Desert Storm near the Ali Al Salem Air Base. Pretty much sums up the T-72’s combat record. (DOD photo)

The Czech Republic was one of those who had the unenviable task of dealing with these rolling disasters. Thankfully, then-Czechoslovakia was smart enough to get a license to build the T-72 themselves and not depend on Russian manufacturing.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Czech Republic began looking at upgrading their T-72s. Ultimately, the Czechs adapated an Italian fire-control system to enable the tank to fire on the move and hit its target, an American transmission, and a British power pack. The Czechs called this the T-72M4.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
A Czech Army T-72M4. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The problem was that the Czech Republic soon had little budgetary room. All in all, out of plans to originally modernize 340 T-72 tanks, only 35 got the upgrade — barely enough for a battalion. Still, the Czechs do deserve credit for making one of the biggest pieces of crap in the world of battle tanks somewhat functional.

Learn more about this makeshift tank by watching the video below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army uses pearls for life-saving technology

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.

By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)


“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.

The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.

When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(University at Buffalo)

This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.

The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.

The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.

“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy is putting ‘the proper equipment’ back on its ships to operate in harsh Arctic conditions

The Navy continues to adapt to harsh Arctic conditions, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, head of the Navy’s 2nd Fleet, said Tuesday.

After decades focused on other regions, the Navy has been increasing its presence in the Arctic as it grows more accessible to economic activity and, in turn, to broader strategic competition with rivals like Russia and China.


The latest venture north began Tuesday, when Navy and Coast Guard ships joined Canadian, Danish, and French vessels for the annual Canadian-led exercise Operation Nanook in the waters between Canada and Greenland.

The exercise consists of “basic tactical operating in the higher latitudes,” elements of which are “significantly different than how we operate” elsewhere, Lewis said.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter takes off from Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, August 2, 2020. (US Navy/MCS Seaman Apprentice Sawyer Connally)

“If you fall in the water where they’re going to be operating, you’re not going to survive very long unless you have the proper equipment on board, which is something that we have taken off our ships in recent years, and now we’ve put it back in,” Lewis said.

Other lessons are being relearned, Lewis said, citing the USS Harry S. Truman, which sailed into the Arctic in 2018 — the first such trip by a carrier in decades — with “a bunch of baseball bats to knock ice off the superstructure.”

“You have to have the flexibility and the timing built into your scheme of maneuver … because the weather has a huge impact on your ability to make it through straits or going through a certain chokepoint,” Lewis said.

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner will also do rigid-hull inflatable boat operations as part of the exercise. “It is the first time that we’re putting a boat in the water recently in these temperature climates,” Lewis said.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner the Atlantic Ocean, August 2, 2020. (US Navy/MCS MC2 Sara Eshleman)

“It’s by nature a fairly challenging environment anyway,” Lewis added. “But then you throw the temperature and the potential sea state being higher — that’s something we need to kind of take a crawl-walk-run approach to.”

Nanook will have gunnery and other drills, such as tracking vessels of interest. “A lot of it has to do with basic warfare serials … and then basic security tasks and operating together,” Rear Adm. Brian Santarpia said Tuesday.

Santarpia, who commands Canadian naval forces in the Atlantic and Arctic, said it was “great” to get sailors into unfamiliar surroundings.

“Once we put them up there, they’re going to solve all the problems on their own,” Santarpia said. “They just have to recognize that there is a challenge and then they tend to get after it.”

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

US Coast Guard cutter Willow transits near an iceberg with a Danish naval vessel in the Nares Strait, August 23, 2011. (US Coast Guard/PO3 Luke Clayton)

‘We’re going to learn a lot’

The Canadian military has conducted Operation Nanook since 2007, working with local and foreign partners to practice disaster response and maritime security across northern Canada. There will be no operations ashore this year because of COVID-19.

The Canadian ships left Halifax on Tuesday with US Coast Guard medium-endurance cutter Tahoma. They will meet USS Thomas Hudner and sail north to meet French and Danish ships and operate around the Davis Strait, off Greenland’s west coast.

“This will be the farthest north that we have deployed this class of cutter, so we’re excited to showcase the agility of our fleet,” Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area commander, said Tuesday.

Lewis and Poulin both said Nanook is a chance to practice adapting to challenges in the Arctic, such as communications interference.

“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to push this medium endurance cutter so far north. We’re going to learn a lot about our own operations” and about “the logistics chain that’s required to support our Coast Guard assets that are so far north,” Poulin said.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Search and rescue technicians on a CH-149 Cormorant conduct a hoist-rescue exercise with Canadian coastal defense ship Shawinigan during Operation Nanook, August, 22, 2014. (Joint Task Force (North)/LS Mat1 Barrieau)

The Canadian military adjusted Nanook in 2018 to include “everything we did in the Arctic,” Santarpia said. “It demonstrates … to anybody who is interested in the Arctic that Canada knows … how to take care of its own security and sovereignty in that area.”

Santarpia said more activity in the Arctic, facilitated by a warming climate, underscores the need to be present there for strategic reasons as well as emergency response.

“Last year was the warmest year in the Arctic that they’ve ever had. This year’s on pace to be warmer yet. It allows us to operate [there] for a little bit longer,” Santarpia said, adding that Canada’s navy didn’t “have any [Arctic] ability until just Friday, when the very first Canadian Arctic offshore patrol ship was delivered.”

That ship, HMCS Harry DeWolf, arrived two years late, but five more are to be delivered to Canada’s navy and two to its coast guard in the coming years.

“Next year, it’ll be part of the of the exercise, and that vessel can operate actually in the first-year ice that’s a meter thick,” Santarpia said. But until then the Canadian navy “is limited to where the ice is not pack ice.”

As those waters become navigable for longer periods, “we will slowly be able to spend more time in the north,” Santarpia added. “As the new capability comes online … we’ll be up there for the majority of year eventually.”

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


Articles

7 things you need in your bug out bag when sh** gets real

When the time comes to get out of the house and hit the road for a few days to reach a safe place, what do you take with you? What if you lived in Washington D.C. and need to get to your cousin’s house in Charleston, West Virginia, among the throngs of frightened masses choking the roadways and buying up all the supplies during a natural disaster? A simple answer is a bug out bag.


Bug out bags are just what the name implies — bags you and your family can grab at a moment’s notice and bug out of the area. A bug out bag can get you through a few days by itself, but it’s a temporary means to an end. The water and food will eventually run out so you have to pack one in a methodical manner that meets your expectations and criteria. When prepping bags, it’s important to keep in mind a few things:

What is the threat? What are you running from? Where are you running to?

What is the environment? A bug out bag for a family living in the Everglades is not going to look much like a bug out bag for a family living in Anchorage. Determine what it is you need the most of — water, heat, food, etc?

How much can you and your family carry? If you’re a big guy and can carry a lot, then by all means find a large rucksack and maximize it. But if you have kids (who should all be carrying their own bags), take their capabilities into account and pack accordingly.

Be redundant. That old cliché “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true of bug out bags. Let’s say you and your family are crossing a stream and one bag gets lost down river. If that bag had the only Epi Pen for your allergic son, you’ve just made your situation worse.

I have three kids and packed each of them a bag according to how much they can carry and what they would need to survive in the Northern Virginia area for 5 days with no assistance. Our area has a lot of natural water sources, so I’m not overly concerned with finding water. All three bags have the following basics:

1. Water

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
The human body cannot survive without water! Keep this primary directive in mind. Water packets are great for the short term, but you will need to find a water source as soon as possible. My bags all have 5 purified water packets, a folding water bottle, and water purification tablets so I can fill a bottle, disinfect it, and drink fairly quickly. I also have a Life Straw in each bag so we can drink from any source on the go.

2. Five days of meals

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

For food preparation, I have included a small folding stove, a canteen cup, and 2 cans of camp fuel or heat tabs is great for boiling water for freeze dried meals.

One set of steel utensils or a multi-use eating tool is a must.

3. Fire making materials

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Redundancy is key here. It’s easy to carry several forms of fire making materials without overloading the pack. Wise Fire Starter, fire sticks, butane lighters, and flint are all fairly lightweight.

4. Items to keep you warm and dry

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Everyone needs to stay warm and dry. Chemically activated hand and body warmers, gloves, a ski cap, an emergency blanket, and a folding poncho are easy to find and relatively small.

5. Light

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Have a mix of direct light (flashlights, head lamps) and marking lights (chem lights). A powerful handheld flashlight can also act as a blinder for animals and humans. Pack an extra set of batteries for whatever light you choose. Several companies make flashlights that don’t need batteries.

6. First aid kit

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Each bag has a small, basic first aid kit with bandages, alcohol wipes, gauze, and other basic items. I also put one trauma pack and a snake bite kit in each bag.

Make sure you include basic meds and specific meds for each particular person. Each bag has a travel container of Neosporin, Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, Orajel, Blistex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Gold Bond, insect wipes, sun block, and a protective mask. One of my sons requires an inhaler and an Epi Pen, as well.

Hygiene is more important than you think. Besides fighting off bacteria and infections, a basic cleaning can raise your morale. Each bag should have a small travel pack of toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, baby wipes, tissues, a cloth, and hand sanitizer. Add other items as needed.

7. Tools and Weapons

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
A Gerber or other multi tool is a must as is a good pocket knife. I like to pack a small shovel, a tree saw, a fishing kit, and a Mace gun with extra cartridges. I also have a multi-use bracelet on the outside of the bag with a compass, cord and flint.

A few more miscellaneous things:

Toss in a whistle with a compass, a deck of cards, a notepad, a signal mirror, a signal flag, a NIOSH approved face mask, and a watch that doesn’t need a battery. A small survival manual is a good idea if you can find one.

Include three pairs of underwear and socks per person. If you can fit a change of clothes, do so.

As for basic communications, everyone has a cell phone nowadays, which is good and bad. They provide immediate communications, but the networks they rely on can be knocked out easily. Backup comms are a must. A simple battery operated radio with a limited range in each bag provides short range comms and most importantly, can help avoid family members getting separated.

I keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on the outside of my ruck so it can be accessed easily. If I’m injured, I want my kids to be able to get to it and treat me without having to dig through the ruck. I also keep my ammo on the outside for easy access.

I carry a small tent and, just to be safe, I put an extra set of my son’s prescription meds in my ruck. I keep my ruck in the car because I’d rather have it with me at work and on vacations than sitting in my basement where it doesn’t do anyone any good. Also, if I find myself in a survival situation (snowstorm, car failure, zombie apocalypse, etc) I’m ready.

There are a lot of companies that sell pre-packed bug out bags that are a great start, but I encourage you to customize them to your situation and environment. I highly recommend my friend Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response website.

Stay ready!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.


Gripen – Always combat ready

www.youtube.com

You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.

The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.

But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)

That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.

Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.

But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

A Saab JAS-39 Gripen in flight.

(Oleg V. Belyakov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Electronic warfare, using radar and other signals to mask your own forces while also jamming the enemy’s machines, is one of the tools that’s supposed to keep the F-35 safe. But where the F-35 was laboriously and expensively built with its antennas and sensors in the stealth skin of the aircraft, Gripen took a more traditional route and just built fighters with electronic and conventional weapons, akin to the EA-18G Super Hornet.

But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.

There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.

And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Whether it’s in the desert, arctic, jungle, an urban environment or at sea, the men and women of the Air Force train to handle any situation.

The primary focus of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists is to train military personnel to survive any situation. These elite instructors are experts on how to survive in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet, and it’s their responsibility to ensure when a mission doesn’t go as planned, the airmen involved are ready for anything.

This focus on readiness was on display Aug. 5, 2019, during a SERE exercise in Vallejo, California, which provided airmen an opportunity to train using realistic scenarios while testing new technology.


“Aircrew must maintain combat mission ready status, allowing them to be deployable worldwide,” said Tech. Sgt. Emanuel Espino-Mata, 60th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of SERE operations. “Pilots and other airmen considered to be at high risk of isolation during a mission attend refresher training at remote locations near Travis AFB every three years to stay proficient in SERE skills. It’s also vital we as SERE instructors do all we can to ensure our airmen can survive and operate in contested environments.”

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Maj. Justin Krull, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender instructor pilot listens to last-minute instructions on communication devices before a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

During the exercise, which took place among steep, rocky hills covered with insect-infested trees, 11 airmen from flying squadrons across Travis AFB joined two SERE instructors to test the Somewear Labs Hotspot paired with a combat-configured smartphone, a device that can increase radio battery life.

“Today’s exercise was the first-ever field test of the device developed by Somewear Labs,” Espino-Mata said. “Our C-cell radios only maintain limited battery power. They are also bulky and heavy. This new device can be paired with any smartphone once the user downloads the application and provides encrypted messaging between the user in the field, the receiver, another team member, a recovery force or a personnel recovery cell.”

The device, which is smaller and lighter than some secure communications devices currently being used, has the potential to improve life saving capabilities by using a smartphone platform to run the software, which is something everyone is familiar with and comfortable using, Espino-Mata added.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Aircrew members study communication devices utilized during a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

It also offers a wide range of features.

“Our system supports digital maps for navigation, a modern digital experience for satellite messaging and data transmission, as well as comprehensive blue-force tracking for the tactical operations center or any command center,” said Nate Simon, Somewear Labs product manager. “This is a huge step in evasion capability. This device is one of the lightest and smallest of its kind and a major enhancement to the current survival kit.”

airmen assigned to aircrew positions are trained to evade enemy forces if their aircraft is brought down in enemy territory. They are taught to find water, food and shelter while evading capture.

“This is important because help may not come for around a week and they may have to travel several miles without being detected,” Espino-Mata said.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Heard, 60th Operations Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape training noncommissioned officer in charge gives last minute instruction on communication devices before a SERE training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019 in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

In 2018, Simon, who holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, was part of an Air Force Research Laboratory study conducted by Stanford’s class, Hacking 4 Defense: Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad. The goal of the study was to address issues with survival radios and increase the survivability of downed airmen.

“My team was given a problem by the AFRL to improve personnel recovery,” Simon said. “Given Travis AFB’s proximity to the Bay Area, one of our initial contacts was Sergeant Espino-Mata, who arranged several visits to the base. After over 100 interviews with pilots, aircrew, SERE specialists, rescue squadrons and other Department of Defense experts, we realized a combat smartphone and satellite transceiver could drastically improve the personnel accountability and recovery space.”

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape personnel field test Somewear Lab’s Hotspot Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

“Somewear’s first product enables any remote operative to reliably access secure communications and improve their situational awareness with a combination of compact satellite hotspots and software designed for low-bandwidth applications,” Simon added.

One exercise participant was thrilled with how well the Somewear Hotspot performed.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Tech. Sgt. Bernie Rowe, 60th OSS KC-10 Extender instructor flight engineer. “It was really simple to use and with the encryption, I was able to make contact and receive new coordinates and instructions by text without it being coded, like the C-cell survival radios. It is light years ahead of the C-cells.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Still the champ: 3 things you should know about the SR-71 Blackbird

Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:

Brute force.

In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.


Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.

You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

USAF

The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.

The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.

Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

i1.wp.com

Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.

The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

USAF

There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.

Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.

Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

See DARPA quadcopter drones fly an obstacle course without GPS

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones or UAVs, have become a very essential part of warfare for the United States. Some have even taken out some terrorist bigwigs, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who was connected to the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood.


That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn’t work, like inside buildings or underground.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don’t rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.

Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!

Intel

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Israel’s SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) kit converts unguided bombs into precision-guided ones.


There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.

With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GujLif0VZIg

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Articles

Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

Long range precision machine guns.


Nearly silent carbine uppers.

A new sniper rifle that can change between three calibers at the twist of a barrel.

These are just a few of the new technologies America’s top special operators are looking for to help them go after the bad guys of the future.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

According to an announcement released last month, the Joint Special Operations Command — the folks in charge of so-called “Tier 1” commandos, including SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force — is asking industry for help developing several new weapons technologies to help them do their job in a variety of battlefields.

First off, the JSOC operators are looking for a machine gun chambered in a “medium caliber” — usually considered anywhere between a 30-06 and 5.56 — that can reach out accurately to 2,000 yards. That’s slightly more than the maximum effective range of the new lightweight M240L that’s chambered in 7.62mm. The special operators want the machine gun to weigh 24 pounds or less — the M240L has a spec weight of 22.3 pounds.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
A vehicle-mounted M240L. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn/released)

But sources say what SOCOM is really leaning toward is a machine gun chambered in .338 — “it’s all the rage,” our source said.

It’s no secret that special operations troops put a lot of stock in silence and stealth. From advanced night vision to secret helicopters that cut down on rotor noise and radar signature, the Tier 1 commandos are always looking for ways to creep in and out of a target while most are unawares.

So that’s why JSOC is throwing out a request to industry for ideas on a so-called “Suppressed Upper Receiver Group.” Essentially what the spec ops troops are looking for is a rifle upper that fits on current M4-style standard lower receivers that is designed to operate in full-time suppressed mode.

Most of today’s special operators use detachable suppressors that mount on the flash hider or muzzle brake at the end of the rifle’s barrel. But what JSOC wants is a specially-designed upper that has that suppressor built into it. Advocates argue a dedicated suppressed upper would help make the rifle perform better and run cleaner.

But SOCOM had to cancel an earlier request for proposals on the SURG due to unrealistic requirements, sources say, and that’s why JSOC is asking industry to see what it’s got.

The primary problem with the earlier request, insiders say, was how to deal with the heat a suppressor generates during high rates of fire. It was so bad, some say, that it could damage sensitive electronic sights and laser pointers mounted to the rifle’s handguard.

The special operators are “seeking a next-generation, modular upper receiver group that is interoperable with current lower receivers and is optimized for full time suppressed operation,” SOCOM says “[It] must have advanced heat mitigation technology to counter mirage effect.”

The new JSOC specs “are more realistic and not from a video game,” one source told WATM.

Lastly, JSOC has tweaked its request for a so-called Advanced Precision Sniper Rifle. While the ASR request has been out there for a while, SOCOM has changed the chambering options for the rifle.

Now the command wants a rifle that can change from a .308 caliber precision rifle to one in .300 Norma Magnum or .338 Norma Magnum. That’s a change from previous requests for .308, .300 WinMag and .338 Lapua Magnum.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
Army snipers survey the battlefield using the M110 semi-automatic sniper system (the FDE rifle) and the new M2010 bolt-action sniper rifle chambered in .300 WinMag. (Photo from U.S. Army)

A former special operations sniper instructor tells WATM that the Norma Magnum round feeds better from a magazine than its Lapua counterpart, and the .300 NM has a better ballistic performance than .338 LM.

Program officials with SOCOM are inviting industry to submit their ideas in person during an industry day in Florida in early November.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New T-7A Red Hawk honors Tuskegee Airmen

The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan made the announcement during his speech at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Sept. 16, 2019.

Donovan was joined on stage by one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Col. Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Also seated in the audience were members of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

After a short video highlighting the aircraft’s lineage, Donovan said, “ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest Red Tail!” A drape was then lifted to reveal a quarter-scale model of a T-7A Red Hawk painted in a distinct, red-tailed color scheme.


“The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” Donovan said. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron.”

Boeing T-X Becomes T-7A Red Hawk

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The Tuskegee Airmen subsequently painted their Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.

The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.

“The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft,” Donovan said. “The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities.”

Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

Two Boeing T-X trainers.

The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.

“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”

A .2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Motor Pool Mondays are more important than troops realize

Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.

Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.


How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.

The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.

If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.

(Meme via Vet Humor)

Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.

Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.

Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Indian Navy suddenly became a major power

The Indian Navy has quietly become one of the most powerful navies in the world, and it’s still on the upswing. You might be surprised, thinking to yourself, “how did the land of the peace-loving Mahatma Gandhi become a major military power?”


Truth is, the Indian Air Force has long been a power in South Asia. Not only have they improved on Russian-era jets, but they’ve also built their own jets and helicopters. Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has also become a major power. It has operated aircraft carriers continuously since 1961, a streak second only to the United States Navy. Not even the vaunted Royal Navy can match that (and no, the HMS Ocean doesn’t count).

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
The largest and the first indigenously-built, 40,000-ton aircraft carrier (IAC) named INS Vikrant is undocked on June 10, 2015. (Photo from Indian Navy)

But one of the biggest areas in which India is advancing is in submarines. The nation’s success is built upon a tradition of very advanced sub-operations. India is one of six countries to have operated a nuclear-powered submarine. In fact, they quietly commissioned the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant just last year.

Related: This is what would happen if China and India went to war

The Indians aren’t stopping there. While SSBNs are important to establishing a survivable deterrent, India also needs to protect those subs or to take the fight to an enemy navy far from shore. According to NDTV.com, India is now pursuing plans to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines.

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank
India’s first nuclear sub, the Charlie-class SSGN, dubbed the INS Chakra. (U.S. Navy photo)

India already has some experience with nuclear attack submarines. The Indian Navy leased a Charlie-class, nuclear-powered, cruise-missile submarine from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, called INS Chakra. Recently, India acquired a more modern Akula-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia, naming it INS Chakra II.

Outside of the announced plans to build them, India has not released details about this new class of nuclear submarines. That said, the development of the Arihant shows that it may not be a design to be taken lightly. Watch a video about the expansion of the Indian Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine force below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v1ka7DkEdg
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