DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

DARPA created a device that hijacks an insect’s brain and body turning it into a miniature drone.


Through a DARPA-funded program, scientists at the University of California invented a tiny rig that connects to an insect’s brain and flight muscles. Once implanted, the device takes over the insect’s body, turning it into a remote control cyborg capable of receiving flight commands wirelessly from a nearby laptop.

Engineers at CRASAR developed small robots to aid in search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief, but nothing they’ve made has come close to the size and capabilities of an insect. Rather than creating such a robot, the University of California scientists decided to take a shortcut. “Insects are just amazing fliers compared to anything we can build at that scale,” said lead engineer Michel Maharbiz in and interview with WIRED.

This is not the first time scientists used technology to control insects, according WIRED:

Researches have created remote-controlled crawling insects before, forcing a bug’s legs to move by electrically stimulating its muscles. It’s simple enough that you can even buy your own kit to commandeer a cockroach at home. But flying bugs are harder to hijack.

This video shows the University of California scientists controlling a beetle cyborg:

Read more: DARPA invented a robot that can learn from watching YouTube videos

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Orbit, conducted a successful test drop of an unpowered LauncherOne rocket on July 10, 2019, over California’s Mojave Desert near the Mojave Air & Space Port. The test is the latest step in Virgin Orbit’s goal to offer an affordable, small payload orbital launch capability to both commercial and government contract customers.

The unpowered air-launch drop test was the last major step toward the next phase of testing for LauncherOne, a future powered flight following a drop from the Boeing 747-400 named “cosmic Girl”. July 10, 2019’s test drop was initiated from an altitude of 35,000 feet using an unpowered LauncherOne vehicle filled with antifreeze and water as ballast to simulate a payload. Following the test drop the LauncherOne test vehicle fell seven miles to earth and its destruction following impact with the desert.


DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The LauncherOne test vehicle under the wing of the drop aircraft moments before July 10, 2019’s successful test drop.

(Virgin Orbit)

The Boeing 747-400 drop-test mothership aircraft was flown by noted test pilot and Air Force Academy graduate Kelly Latimer, a combat pilot and also a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School. Latimer is a veteran of the Virgin Galactic program and has also flown the WhiteKnightTwo specialty built aerial launch vehicle.

Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Drop Test

www.youtube.com

In a blog post on VirginOrbit.com published July 9, 2019, the company said, “We’ll be monitoring and rehearsing a million things, but this test is really all about those few seconds just after release, as we ensure the rocket and aircraft separate cleanly and observe how the rocket free-falls through the air.”

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The course flown by the Boeing 747-400 drop aircraft for July 10, 2019’s successful test drop. The aircraft could be tracked on Flightradar24.com.

(Flightradar24.com via Virgin Orbit Twitter)

The Virgin Orbit LauncherOne project is one of many recent commercial space launch projects, not all of which have succeeded. Following the dramatic first flight of late billionaire Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch aircraft on April 19, 2019, the Reuters News agency ran a story on May 31, 2019, saying the Stratolaunch flight program would be shut down until a buyer for the ambitious project came forward. A June 14, 2019 report on CNBC.com by reporter Michael Sheetz said, “Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch at 0 million, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.”
Branson’s Virgin Orbit LauncherOne may be a more practical approach to short lead-time, low cost orbital launches. LauncherOne is claimed to have a payload capacity of 300 kilograms (660 lbs.), although Space.com reports the payloads can be up to “1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms)”. Extremely short launch lead times can be only 24 hours from mission preparation to orbit, a feature that may make this launch technology attractive to military customers.

Branson’s greatest achievement with LauncherOne may be even more practical; cost. Boosting a payload into orbit using Virgin Orbit and LauncherOne may cost as little as M USD per mission. This compares to M USD to launch a larger 50,000 lb. payload into orbit using Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. On a pound-per-dollar basis, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is less expensive, but LauncherOne can specialize in smaller, shorter lead-time orbital payloads.

Virgin Orbit has not said when the next phase of testing, to include launching a powered LauncherOne into orbit from the 747-400 launch plane, will take place, but reports suggest it will happen soon. Virgin Orbit has confirmed the operational rocket for the first powered air launch has “already undergone extensive testing”.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy approves its first metal 3D-printed part for ship use

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) approved the first metal part created by additive manufacturing (AM) for shipboard installation, the command announced Oct. 11, 2018.

A prototype drain strainer orifice (DSO) assembly will be installed on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in fiscal year 2019 for a one-year test and evaluation trial. The DSO assembly is a steam system component that permits drainage/removal of water from a steam line while in use.

Huntington Ingalls Industries — Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) builds Navy aircraft carriers and proposed installing the prototype on an aircraft carrier for test and evaluation.


“This install marks a significant advancement in the Navy’s ability to make parts on demand and combine NAVSEA’s strategic goal of on-time delivery of ships and submarines while maintaining a culture of affordability,” said Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, NAVSEA chief engineer and deputy commander for ship design, integration, and naval engineering. “By targeting CVN-75 [USS Harry S. Truman], this allows us to get test results faster, so — if successful — we can identify additional uses of additive manufacturing for the fleet.”

The test articles passed functional and environmental testing, which included material, welding, shock, vibration, hydrostatic, and operational steam, and will continue to be evaluated while installed within a low temperature and low pressure saturated steam system. After the test and evaluation period, the prototype assembly will be removed for analysis and inspection.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Gulf of Oman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)

While the Navy has been using additive manufacturing technology for several years, the use of it for metal parts for naval systems is a newer concept and this prototype assembly design, production, and first article testing used traditional mechanical testing to identify requirements and acceptance criteria. Final requirements are still under review.

“Specifications will establish a path for NAVSEA and industry to follow when designing, manufacturing and installing AM components shipboard and will streamline the approval process,” said Dr. Justin Rettaliata, technical warrant holder for additive manufacturing. “NAVSEA has several efforts underway to develop specifications and standards for more commonly used additive manufacturing processes.”

Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands. NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships, submarines and combat systems to meet the fleet’s current and future operational requirements.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A UK firm is developing an insane missileer drone

The Brimstone missile is Europe’s equivalent of the Hellfire missile. Like the Hellfire, it’s designed to take out tanks and other armored targets, it can be fired with different seeker and warheads, and it’s battle-tested, especially in the Middle East. Now, its manufacturer has packed an insane number of them into small, all-terrain drones that could break apart Russian armor formations.


First, a quick background on the threat. While the U.S. is torn between competing threats in the Middle East, China, and Russia, Europe has a clear top priority in Russia. Europe gets a ton of energy from Russia, but the relationship is tense.

Russia has already invaded Ukraine twice, and it’s still supporting separatists in the Donbas region of that country. It has also allegedly violated the territorial sovereignty of Estonia by kidnapping an intelligence officer. (Russia claims the capture happened on their side of the border, Estonia disagrees, and U.S. and NATO intelligence backs Estonia.)

And Russia rattles its sabers every time a Baltic state or Eastern European country makes stronger ties with the U.S. or NATO. So if you were a small European country, especially one north of the Suwalki Gap, where Russia can amputate part of Europe with a 60-mile armored thrust, countering Russian forces is a major part of your defense needs.

Russia still has the largest fleet of armored land vehicles in the world, with an estimated 22,000 combat tanks, according to GlobalFirepower.com. The largest European armored fleet in NATO comes from Turkey with about 3,200 tanks, and it’s moving into a Russian orbit. The total tank force of European NATO countries only totals a little over 11,000. Adding the U.S. and Canadian armored fleets only gets NATO to about 18,000 tanks.

So, yeah, Russia’s massive armored forces could cause legitimate heartburn in the rest of Europe. No one wants to be the next Ukraine or the next Georgia. (Russia successfully annexed a portion of Georgia in a 2008 invasion.)

But how do you brush back Russia without an armored corps, a massive attack helicopter fleet, or some other costly investment?

THeMIS UGV with the PROTECTOR RWS

youtu.be

Well, if you need to intimidate an armored corps and can’t afford hundreds of attack helicopters with air-to-ground anti-tank missiles, maybe you could just put those missiles on a small drone on the ground.

“This cassette magazine, with its high weapon loadout, is optimised to counter mass armour,” said Andy Allen, MBDA U.K. Head of Land Domain Sales and Business Development. “Pairing the combat-proven MBDA Brimstone missile with a flexible and mission deployed UGV such as the Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS provides the tactical commander with the capability to rapidly and remotely deliver high volumes of precision anti-armour effects, importantly in all weathers, against all known DAS and at extended ranges.”

At least that’s the logic behind the pairing of the Brimstone missile and the MILREM Robotics THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle. The resulting product looks a bit like WALL-E if you switched out the cute eyes and body for a six-pack of abs missiles.

The THeMIS UGV is an unmanned infantry support vehicle, and MILREM Robotics sells it in a number of configurations, from transport to remote weapon platform to explosive ordnance disposal. But the most robust anti-tank version on MILREM’s website has a single Javelin missile. MBDA’s proposal would pack six Brimstones instead.

This could be especially potent when MILREM finishes the “swarming” control protocol that’s currently in development.

And Europe might invest in the solution. Europe is already heavily invested in Brimstone, and some countries already own a few THeMIS, so a paired solution shouldn’t be an insanely hard sell. So, hey, next time you head to Europe for an exercise, you might see a European soldier with a loyal attack robot following him. An attack robot with six tank-killing missiles.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army testing new and improved combat boots

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center at Natick is testing new Army Combat Boot (ACB) prototypes at three different basic training and active duty installations over the next four months. The effort will gather soldier feedback toward development of improved footwear.

The Army’s current inventory of boots includes seven different styles designed for different environments and climates. The boots issued initially to recruits are the Hot Weather and Temperate Weather Army Combat Boots. Requirements for these are managed by the Army Uniform Board as part of the recruit “Clothing Bag.” The Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment maintains and updates the specifications for both boots.


The current generation of Army Combat Boots has not undergone substantial technical or material changes since 2010. New material and technologies now exist that may improve physical performance and increase soldier comfort.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Great strides have been made recently in the Army’s environment specific footwear, for jungle, mountain, or cold weather locations, but there is substantial room for improvement in the general purpose boots which are issued to new recruits,” explains Anita Perkins, RDECOM Soldier Center footwear research engineer and technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. “Most components of these combat boots have not been updated in almost 30 years.”

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Surveys conducted by the Soldier Center report soldier satisfaction with ACBs is lower than that with commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, boots, leading many soldiers to purchase and wear COTS boots.

“The survey of over 14,000 soldiers world-wide discovered that almost 50% choose to wear COTS combat boots instead of Army-issued boots,” Perkins said. “Many soldiers reported choosing combat boots from the commercial market because the COTS boots are lighter, more flexible, require less break-in time, and feel more like athletic shoes than traditional combat boots or work boots.

Unfortunately, these characteristics often come at the cost of durability and protection.”

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, COTS boots and the durable, protective, Army boots. Recent advancements in synthetic materials and rapid prototyping can produce a boot with potentially the same protection, support, and durability of current Army boots, but lighter and more comfortable out of the box. To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30% lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.

When working with industry to develop the prototype boots for this effort, Adams and Perkins put an emphasis on cutting weight. The boots being tested are up to 1.5 pounds lighter per pair than the ACBs currently being issued.

“In terms of energy expenditure or calories burned, 1-pound of weight at the feet is equivalent to 4-pounds in your rucksack,” Adams said.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January 2019 and then return in March and April 2019 to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” said Adams. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of soldiers”.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Simultaneous to the field testing, lab testing will be conducted on the boots at the Soldier Center to quantify characteristics like flexibility, cushioning, cut/abrasion resistance, and breathability. The combination of lab testing and soldier recommendations will identify soldier-desired improvements to the boot prototypes and rank the state-of-the-art materials and designs for soldier acceptance, durability, and safety. The Soldier Center will then provide recommendations to PM SPIE and the Army Uniform Board to drive the next generation of Army Combat Boots.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“The development of new boots take advantage of the latest materials technology, and are functional and comfortable, is critical to ensuring that our soldiers are ready to fight and win in any environment,” said Doug Tamilio, director of the RDECOM Soldier Center. “Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset, and we owe it to them to make them more lethal to win our nation’s wars, and then come home safely.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

A $110 million Nigerien air base constructed by the US will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones after delays due to inclement weather conditions, the military announced on Nov. 1, 2019.

“We are working with our African and international partners to counter security threats in West Africa,” US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the combatant command overseeing US operations in the continent, said in a statement. “The construction of this base demonstrates our investment in our African partners and mutual security interests in the region.”

The base is called Nigerien Air Base 201, and is located in the desert region of Agadez, a strategic transit area for migrants. Both US and Nigerien aircraft will use the runways to launch armed and unarmed air assets against extremists operating in West and North Africa, the military said.


While the US-constructed base will be under Nigerien control, American forces will have exclusive use of around 20% of the roughly 9-mile base, military officials previously said to Stars and Stripes.

The base was expected to be operational in 2018, but the rainy season and other “environmental complexities” caused a delay, a US official said to The Air Force Times.

Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201:

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

An Airman from the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron marshals a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, August 3, 2019. This was the first C-130 to take-off at Air Base 201, marking the beginning of limited Visual Flight Rules operations at the base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Around 600 US Air Force Airmen are estimated to deploy for six-month tours.

The construction process of the base proved to be a challenge for around 350 service members involved in the project. Dry conditions caused concrete to dry and crack freshly-poured concrete.

“We’re building a base from nothing, from scratch,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh said in 2018. “This was all historically nomadic land.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Air Force engineers construct a dining facility on Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger.

(Staff Sgt. Daniel Asselta)

The construction project has also benefited Nigerien locals.

Around million was spent on the asphalt for the base, in addition to million for rubble. Nigerien locals were also employed for day-to-day jobs on the base, such as dining facility operations.

Source: Stars and Stripes

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

A US Air Force air advisor gives instructions to a Niger Armed Forces member while an interpreter translates the instructions during a training exercise at Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Numerous terrorist group operate within the region.

In a new report released by the State Department on Friday, US officials say terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS continue to operate in the region. US analysts say that terrorist elements have proliferated due to Niger’s limited military and budget.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

Niger Armed Forces members clear a corridor during a training exercise with the US military at the Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Four US troops and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 terrorist ambush.

On October 4, 2017, 11 US troops and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by ISIS-related militants near the Niger-Mali border.

Four US troops were killed, in addition to four Nigerien partner forces, in a battle against overwhelming terrorist forces. The US military awarded six medals to the Nigerien soldiers who fought in the battle, including two Bronze Stars.

A US-led investigation found that US’s ISR assets did not have enough fuel to provide cover for American forces, in addition to inadequate rest for the troops. Roughly an hour and a half after the battle began, two French fighter jets responded by driving the enemy forces away.

Source: The Army Times

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Airmen load a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, Aug. 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lexie West)

Since 2013, the number of US troops in Niger has risen.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US service members would deploy to Niger for “intelligence collection.”

Roughly 800 US troops were operating in Niger by 2018. The terrain and its borders with Chad and Mali make the country an optimal transit route for terrorist militants seeking to travel to Europe, according to the State Department.

In 2018, AFRICOM publicly announced it had started deploying armed drones in a separate Nigerien base, dubbed Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey.

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

Articles

Here’s the Navy’s plan for light carriers

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Navy to find a way to get more aircraft carriers into the fleet quickly.


As Japan “ran wild” during the first six months of the war, nine Cleveland-class light cruisers were converted into aircraft carriers. The ships served during World War II, with one — USS Princeton (CVL 23) — being sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The United States Navy later added two more light carriers, the Saipan-class vessels USS Saipan (CVL 48) and USS Wright (CVL 49)

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
A lineup of the major American carriers in World War II. In the back is USS San Jacinto (CVL 30), an Independence-class light carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

Now, the light carrier could be making a comeback. According to a report from Popular Mechanics, the Navy has received $30 million to come up with a preliminary design for a light carrier. This is being pursued at the behest of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

The report noted that the Navy had operated what amounted to “light” carriers in the Cold War. However, these “light” carriers were the fleet carrier designs (the Essex-class and Midway-class vessels), which had become “light” due to the development of the super-carriers, starting with USS Forrestal (CV 59).

The most notable of these “light” carriers, were the three Midway-class ships: USS Midway (CV 41), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), and USS Coral Sea (CV 43).

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), a Midway-class carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

In World War II, the light carriers helped bolster the air power of the Third Fleet and Fifth Fleet. Mostly, this was by adding a huge complement of fighters. According to “Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls,” Volume VII in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” an Essex-class carrier usually carried 36 F6F Hellcats, 36 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.

The usual air group for an Independence-class light carrier was 24 F6F Hellcats and 9 TBFs. Independence-class light carriers displaced 11,000 tons, compared to 30,000 for the Essex.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
USS Cowpens (CVL 25) with aircraft on the flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo)

What could be the light carrier of today?

Popular Mechanics looked at two options. One was essentially to use the America-class amphibious assault ship to operate about 20 F-35Bs from, along with MH-60R helicopters and V-22 Osprey tankers. The other option is to modify the America design to use catapults and arresting gear to operate planes like the F/A-18E/F and F-35C.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) returns to Huntington Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi (USA), after completing sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Lawrence Grove)

Either way, these carriers would not have the capabilities of a supercarrier like USS Nimitz (CVN 68) or Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The air groups would be smaller, and the light carriers would not likely have nuclear power.

However, the lighter carriers could handle a number of missions — including convoy escort and operations like those in Libya or Somalia, freeing up the supercarriers for major conflicts against a country like China or Russia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Zippo lighter became an iconic symbol of the American warfighter

When the U.S. military entered World War II, American businesses geared their entrepreneurial efforts toward supporting the war effort as a means of survival. This meant the majority of raw materials were used to produce weapons, ammunition, armor, aircraft, and other necessary equipment. Zippo Manufacturing Company had a decade of experience selling their flip-open lighters to the consumer market, but during the war they exclusively produced Zippo lighters for American service members.

The classic Zippo design garnered respect among the millions of Americans serving overseas. These steel-cased lighters had a black crackle finish and no customization, engravings, or art work on them but were durable and could function no matter what elements troops found themselves in. An ad in 1942 wrote, “Zippo Windproof LIGHTERS have acted as rescue beacons for men in open boats, as a guide through dense dark jungles and as a means for lighting fires for food and warmth.”


Ernie Pyle, a famous war correspondent and newspaperman, developed a special relationship with George Blaisdell and personally received a shipment of 50 Zippos prior to the D-Day invasion. “And another 100 will be sent to Ernie every month for the duration,” Blaisdell added.

Pyle famously penned a letter to Blaisdell on Oct. 29, 1944: “If I tried to tell you how much these Zippos are coveted at the front and the gratitude and delight with which the boys receive them, you would probably accuse me of exaggeration,” he wrote. “There is truly nothing the average soldier would rather have.”

Following Pyle’s tragic death in the Pacific in 1945, Blaisdell immediately sent 600 Zippo lighters engraved with “In memory of Ernie Pyle” to the captain of the USS Cabot to hand out to the crew who counted Pyle as one of their own.

Post-World War II, the increasingly popular Zippo lighters became available to the general public once again. The connection between Zippo and the U.S. military didn’t stop there, and during the Vietnam War Zippo emerged as the most popular item carried in the pockets of American service members. Unlike the cigarette lighters from previous wars, these Zippos were personal mementos specifically customized with unit logos, maps of Vietnam, and both humorous and crude slogans.

“You had people who were discontent people who wanted to express heartfelt emotions,” said Bradford Edwards, a Vietnam-era Zippo collector and artist. “And here was a small canvas that may be the last thing some of these guys had to say.”

One soldier’s Zippo had the logo for the United States Army Air Defense Center in Fort Bliss, Texas, on the front, while the lid reads, “When I die bury me face down so the whole world can kiss my ass.” On the back, the case reads, “5th Special Forces Group – 1st Special Forces Viet Nam 69-70” with an engraving of a U.S. Army Special Forces green beret. The lid reads, “Nha-Trang Viet Nam.”

During the Vietnam War, Zippos were sold at the PX or by locals operating the street side black markets. Their popularity in wartime culture surged with “Zippo Tracks” being adopted as a nickname for flame throwing tanks, and “Zippo Raids” used to describe the actions of soldiers burning down hooches or villages.

Although Zippo remained a treasured collector’s item, during the 1980s a surge of fake lighters saturated the market. Zippo continues to produce military-themed lighters to commemorate their storied legacy, although the artwork is more general. The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania, is home to Zippo and Case Knives flagship stores, where collectors and tourists alike can take a deeper dive into the history of Zippo and their involvement with American service members.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian fighter has to be chained to a tractor before takeoff

Fighter aircraft are designed and created for a lot of reasons. The F-22’s maneuverability and speed were designed to make the aircraft the world’s premier air superiority fighter. The A-10, by contrast, is relatively slow, but the flying tank packs a mighty punch to give American ground troops the close-air support they need on the battlefield. Other countries presumably develop their aircraft for similar purposes. The Russian P-42 Flanker fighter, however, was designed with one thing in mind – beating records.

American aircraft records, that is.


DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The P-42 in 1986.

The Sukhoi-27 “Flanker” (as it was called by NATO) was, to many aviation historians, the pinnacle of Soviet and Russian aviation engineering. It was created in the mid-to-late-1970s as a means of taking on the American F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle fighters and all their various air combat roles. Their primary mission was to scramble and intercept heavy American bombers in the event of World War III. Of course, they never fulfilled that mission, but some Su-27s have seen active duty action in recent years, notably in Syria as part of the Russian Air Force mission there.

Su-27 Flankers, like the F-15, saw modification in different variations in order to fulfill the roles required of various aircraft in the Soviet arsenal. But one of those variants wasn’t to fill a military function at all; it was built for one reason: to beat American aviation records.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The Soviet P-42 was expected to set records for range and flight altitude, maximum airspeed, and rate of climb. From 1986 to 1990, the specially modified P-42 set 41 different world records, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world’s governing body for air sports. They started by taking on the F-15 Eagle directly – with a “zoom climb” to 30,000 meters.

A zoom climb comes when an aircraft pilot pulls up, trading forward motion (kinetic energy) for upward motion (potential energy) and by applying thrusters, can actually achieve a higher climb rate than its maximum climb rate and a higher altitude than its maximum. Pilots will take off as fast as possible and fly close to the ground until they pull up at a nearly vertical angle, reaching cruising altitude as fast as possible. The Soviet P-42 was stripped-down and ready for this first part, generating so much energy for that initial burst of speed that it had to be chained to a tractor to prevent a “premature takeoff” on its own.

Its thrust-to-weight ratio meant that its brakes were unable to keep the plane in its starting position. Soviet engineers attached the plane to a towrope with a special lock. The towrope was attached to a specially outfitted and armored tractor that would be protected from the extreme heat of the plane’s afterburners. Detaching the towrope was automatically triggered by the start of the timers for all the P-42’s world records.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The F-15 “Streak Eagle” used to break world aviation records.

The Russians were targeting the altitude record set by USAF F-15 Strike Eagle in 1975. At an embarrassing rate (for the USSR, that is) American F-15 fighters smashed eight world aviation and speed records in just two weeks, records which stood for more than a decade. This apparently stuck to the Russians particularly hard, as the Soviet Air Force spent years preparing a plane specifically designed just to beat them back.

This modified Su-27 didn’t go supersonic during its zoom climbs. It didn’t have to. Without the weight of systems like avionics or armaments, the P-42 was able to easily subdue the records for the 3,000, 6,000 9,000, and 12,000 meter climbs, along with 23 other aviation and speed records.

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This was the US Navy’s cutting-edge stealth ship

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Photo: US Navy


In the early 1980s, Cold War tensions were at their post-Cuban Missile Crisis height, and the US was looking for any strategic advantage it could get against its Soviet adversary.

Although submarine-based missiles were a well-established leg of the nuclear “triad” (along with ballistic missiles and strategic bomber aircraft) the US realized the strategic applicability of stealth for vessels at sea. Specifically, US military researchers wanted to test the viability of making nuclear-armed submarines invisible to sonar.

This effort resulted in Lockheed Martin’s experimental stealth ship, a razor-like surface vessel called the Sea Shadow.

First acquired by the US Navy in 1985, the Sea Shadow remained secret until it was unveiled to the public in 1993. The ship continued to be used for testing purposes until 2006, when it was removed from service.

Built with help from DARPA and funding from the US government, Sea Shadow was designed to test if it was possible to construct ships that could be invisible to Soviet satellite detection systems and X-band radar.

Additionally, the ship was more highly automated than previous vessels, and the Sea Shadow was partly aimed at testing how well surface ships could perform under the command of a very small crew.

First acquired in 1985, the Sea Shadow was never intended to be mission capable.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Photo: US Navy

Instead, the ship was built to test stealth and automation technology. The sharp angles on the ship reflect designs that had previously proven successful for Lockheed’s stealth Nighthawk attack aircraft.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Photo: US Navy

The Sea Shadow’s raised hull builds upon older technology that is widely used in ferry design for enhancing stability. The Sea Shadow was designed to be able to withstand 18-foot high waves.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Photo: US Navy

The Sea Shadow was small and cramped. It was only 160 feet long, could only fit 12 bunks, and only had a small microwave, refrigerator, and table for the crew.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Photo: US Navy

Although the Sea Shadow was taken out of service in 2006, it still influenced later classes of ships. Its low radar cross section, for instance, informed the design of subsequent US Navy destroyers.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Photo: US Navy

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Army plans to ditch its transport fleet

The legend about the Army having more boats than the Navy hasn’t been true since World War II, but the Army’s fleet of about 130 ships support combat and logistical operations around the world, especially in inhospitable or underdeveloped environments.

According to several reports, the Army plans to scuttle much of its boat fleet and reassign the soldiers manning them.


At least 18 of the Army’s more than 30 landing craft utility — versatile, 174-foot-long workhorses capable of carrying 500 tons of cargo — will be sold or transferred, and eight Army Reserve watercraft units that train soldiers and maintain dozens of watercraft are to be closed, as first reported by maritime website gCaptain.

An Army memo obtained by gCaptain said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau [Army Watercraft Systems] capabilities and/or supporting structure.”

Plans to ditch the aging fleet come amid warnings about the US military’s lack of transport capacity and as the Pentagon’s focus shifts to a potential fight against a more sophisticated adversary, like Russia or China.

Below, you can see what the Army’s large but relatively unknown fleet does and why it may not be doing it much longer.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Army Logistics Support Vessel-5, Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross, capable of carrying up to 2,000 tons of cargo, arrives at a port in the Persian Gulf for the Iron Union 17-4 exercise in the United Arab Emirates, Sept. 10, 2017.

(US Army photo Staff Sgt. Jennifer Milnes)

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet includes eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Source: The War Zone

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for the construction of 36 modern landing craft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light).

Source: Defense News

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

Army watercraft “expand commanders’ movement and maneuver options in support of unified land operations,” the service says. Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or degraded ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.

Source: US Army

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

Waves crash over US Army Vessel Churubusco on the Persian Gulf, during training exercise Operation Spartan Mariner, Jan. 9, 2013.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

“When higher echelons receive something like redeployment orders, they will not be restricted in their ability to just travel by land or air. They will also understand the Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

Source: US Army

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) approaches a slip at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Despite what the Army’s watercraft bring to the fight, the service thinks it can do without them. In June 2018, Army Secretary Mark Esper ordered the divestment of “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget. At that time, Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.

Source: Stars and Stripes

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

“The Army is assessing its watercraft program to improve readiness, modernize the force and reallocate resources,” Army spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas told Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

The Army would be ditching its boats at a record pace. Most units picked for deactivation are identified two to five years in advance.

Source: Stars and Stripes

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

The Military Sealift Command Vessel Gem State transfers a container to the US Army watercraft Logistics Support Vessel 5 (LSV-5) Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross during an in-stream cargo transfer exercise in the Persian Gulf, June 13, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“What makes this situation different than other in-activations is the short notification, the number of units and positions identified, and the unique equipment and capability being in-activated,” according to notes accompanying a PowerPoint presentation dated January 8, obtained by Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The deactivations and unit closures laid out in the slides would affect at least 746 positions. Recruitment and training of Army mariners would also be put on hold until a final decision is made about the service’s watercraft. Decisions about what, where, and how to cut are still being made.

Source: Stars and Stripes, Army Times

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The Army Reserve oversees much of the service’s marine force, managing about one-quarter of the fleet. The memo seen by gCaptain said soldiers now in the maritime field would be “assessed into units where they can best serve the needs of the Army Reserve while also being gainfully employed.”

Some of the boats currently managed by the Reserve component could be reassigned to the active-duty forces. Others could be decommissioned, stripped of military markings, and sold off.

Source: Stars and Stripes, gCaptain

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

Staff Sgt. Yohannes Page, a watercraft operator, makes an adjustment on a sensor on a component of the Harbormaster Command and Control Center at Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story, May 15, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by 1st Sgt. Angele Ringo)

At the end of 2018, the Army’s logistics staff told Congress that declining sealift capacity — exacerbated the aging of transport vessels — could create “unacceptable risk in force projection” within five years if the Navy doesn’t take action.

Source: Defense News

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Army Spc. Kayla Pfertsh fires an M2 machine gun at an inflatable target known as a killer tomato during a sea-based gunnery range aboard Logistics Support Vessel 5, Jan. 24, 2017

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“The Army’s ability to project military power influences adversaries’ risk calculations,” the Army G-4 document said, according to Defense News, which described it as “reflect[ing] the Army’s growing impatience with the Navy’s efforts to recapitalize its surge sealift ships.”

Source: Defense News

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

Watercraft operator Sgt. Rebecca Sheriff fires at a target in the Pacific Ocean during a waterborne range aboard Logistics Support Vehicle-2, about 40 miles south of Pearl Harbor, Oct. 4, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers)

But even if the sealift fleet were fully stocked and trained, many of its ships, which are tasked with transporting gear for the Army and Marine Corps, can’t unload in underdeveloped or contested ports and waterways, particularly areas where enemies could attack or project force.

Source: Army Times

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a Logistics Support Vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“My fear is the Army doesn’t understand what we have or what we’re getting rid of,” Michael Carr, a retired Army Reserve mariner and author of the gCaptain report, told Stars and Stripes. “I am concerned the Army will have to respond to something in Southeast Asia or South America, somewhere with hostile shores or underdeveloped ports, and we will need this capability and we won’t have it.”

Source: Army Times

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

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Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.


The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?

Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.

Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.

One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.

During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.

Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.

Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.

But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.

That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.

So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.

But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.

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America and Japan could use giant robots in their next war

Anyone who has watched a lot of Japanese anime knows that giant robots are a major theme. Heck, the first four “Transformers” films have netted almost $3.8 billion at the box office since making their debut in 2007. In August, American and Japanese robots will go head-to-head in real life – and we could be seeing some of the classic military sci-fi coming to life.


DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
We’ve seen Optimus Prime engage in some giant-robot fighting on the big screen, but in real life, Megabot Mk III and KURATAS will go head-to-head this summer. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the American company Megabots issued the challenge to the Japanese robotics firm Suidobashi in 2015 after Megabots had completed the 15-foot tall, six-ton Megabot Mark II. The Japanese company accepted the challenge, but insisted that hand-to-hand combat be allowed before agreeing to commit their battle bot, KURATAS.

Megabots then spent two years re-designing its robot warrior to address the changed dynamics of the duel. They also needed to be able to transport the robot inside a standard shipping container. That meant the company had to be able to quickly deploy the Megabot Mark III — a 16-foot tall, 12-ton behemoth — from an air transportable configuration. That’s not an easy task when you consider there are 3,000 wires, 26 hydraulic pumps, and 300 hydraulic hoses to bolt into place.

Plus, the robot’s 430-horsepower engine was originally designed to move a car, not power a piloted robot in a duel to the death – of the robot, that is.

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs
KURATAS, Suidobashi’s giant fighting robot. (Youtube screenshot)

“When we show our robot to people who haven’t heard of us, the reaction is always ‘Oh! I saw that in…’ and then they list any of 60 or 70 different video games, movies, [or] animated shows that feature giant robots fighting. We’re trying to bring the fantasies of sci-fi fans around the world to life,” Megabots co-founder and CEO Gui Cavalcanti said.

Which robot will emerge victorious, and which one will turn into scrap? We’ll find out this summer. Will we eventually see these robots in the military? Don’t bet against it. Meanwhile, watch the challenge Megabots issued to Suidobashi.

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