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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

In 1989, Joseph Szecsei was charged by three elephants at the same time. He survived, but afterward, he decided the usual weapons for defense against giant animal attacks just weren’t sufficient. Szecsei sought out to make the perfect large-game animal stopper: The Szecsei & Fuchs “Mokume” bolt action double rifle.


Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

Of course, Szecsei had a lot of firearm types and designs to choose from in creating the show-stopper. He could have chosen a larger round to shoot from a regular bolt action rifle. He could have created a semi-automatic rifle. There were a few factors (other than how to kill a large animal running at him at full speed) to consider.

First, he couldn’t create a semi-automatic weapon because they’re actually illegal in many of the places in which one might safari or otherwise hunt. Africa isn’t a completely lawless land of civil wars and corruption, no matter what television and movies would have you believe. Secondly, he needed a weapon that wouldn’t jam up at the crucial moment. Defense is the entire reason for the weapon, after all. So a bolt-action was necessary, but Szecsei still wanted the extra oomph of another shot.

Another shot of a round that could stop a charging elephant, that is. And large-caliber rounds just aren’t something a semi-automatic can do for a civilian. Taking a .50-cal out on safari might be frowned upon by the locals, so Szecsei returned to the idea of a large-caliber double-barrel bolt action rifle. And the Szecsei Fuchs “Mokume” rifle was born out of that idea.

The weapon is made of titanium to keep the weight down, along with titanium for its unique double magazine. The weapon fires anything from a .470-caliber round to the U.S. 30.06 – a rifle you can buy for whatever animal might be ready to gore down on your guts. It has two triggers, one for each barrel. With just one movement of the bolt, both rounds are expelled, and new ones are loaded into the chamber.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the next three elephants to come for Joseph Szecsei are in for a huge surprise. Please don’t hunt the most dangerous game with this rifle.

Articles

How the legendary U-2 spy plane landed on an aircraft carrier

The famed U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance and spy aircraft is an icon of the Cold War still in service today. It’s crewed by some of America’s most elite pilots, and even then the finicky plane is typically landed on a large runway with the assistance of a “chase car” that coaches the pilot to the ground.


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A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

The U-2 has wheels aligned like bicycle tires and an 80-ft. wingspan, forcing pilots to carefully guide the plane down the runway just to keep from accidentally banging the tips into the asphalt and ruining the plane.

That’s why it’s so crazy that a group of Air Force and CIA pilots and crew tested the U-2G, a modified version of the spy plane, and certified the Dragon Lady onboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.

After CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet airspace during a flight from Pakistan to Norway, it became harder for the State Department to convince allies to allow U-2s to be based in their countries.

To get around the sudden restriction in land bases willing and capable of handling the planes, the CIA decided to test the possibility of deploying the U-2s on Navy aircraft carriers.

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(GIF: YouTube/Military Videos)

The USS Ranger was selected for the top-secret tests which went surprisingly well, but the only declassified mission of a U-2G launched from a carrier took place in the South Pacific where two Dragon Ladies flew from California to Hawaii to the USS Ranger.

The Ranger delivered the U-2s to a launching point, and the planes sampled the air around the test site to learn more about French nuclear efforts.

See more touch-and-go landings from the USS Ranger trials in the video above.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force tests headset that transmits sound through user’s bones

An innovative in-ear headset is being tested by the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England.

The device, which uses the bones in the user’s ear to transmit sound waves, provides both communication and hearing preservation capabilities to airmen working in noisy environments.

RAF Mildenhall was awarded funding to test the product after US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa identified the base’s proposal, to incorporate bone conduction communication technology into their operations, as especially innovative. The base was paired with Denmark-based INVISIO, a hearing protection and communications company, which was able to supply a product using this technology.


“We’re funded by USAFE-AFAFRICA specifically to provide feedback and input to the Air Force on whether bone conduction is a viable option across many platforms,” explained US Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Pettingill, 100th AMXS continuous process improvement and innovation manager. “We get to be the guinea pig and determine if it works for us and whether it’s worth investing in more.”

Maintenance airmen will be required to wear over the ear hearing protection in addition to the product, but they will more clearly be able to communicate due to the in-ear headset microphone.

“When aircraft engines are running or in a loud environment, our maintainers are required to wear ear plugs in addition to a headset,” said Pettingill. “Imagine sticking ear plugs in your ear and then trying to have a conversation with somebody; it doesn’t work. Enter the dual in-ear headset. This product offers hearing protection and also a microphone you can communicate with.”

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A dual in-ear headset at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 30, 2019. The headset, which provides hearing protection and situational awareness to the user, is being tested at RAF Mildenhall to determine whether the Air Force will invest further in the technology.

(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

In addition to enhancing hearing protection and communication abilities for maintainers, the device will also benefit airmen in other career fields during exercises and real-world conditions, circumstances which necessitate the wearing of protective gear.

“RAF Mildenhall wanted to invest in the product not only due to the advantages it would provide the maintenance squadron, but also the ease of communication it would provide users in an exercise or in a real world event,” said Pettingill. “If you’re wearing a gas mask and you are trying to communicate with a radio, it’s going to be muffled. The product provides a better alternative to radios, which you actually have to bring up to your face to speak into.”

The 100th AMXS and 100th MXS production staff were chosen to test the in-ear headset because they are responsible for the movement of manpower and resources on the flight line, including such things as where aircraft are parked, when fuel is dispatched and which maintainers service certain aircraft, responsibilities that make communication essential. They were given the opportunity to provide their feedback about what they liked and disliked about a device not initially designed for maintenance Airmen, but special operators.

“We’re afforded the resources and the money to provide that feedback,” said Pettingill. “It’s not all positive, but that should be expected. We’ll just have to make adjustments.”

Both maintenance squadrons continue to test the in-ear headsets they have, but they’re waiting for funding to become available that will allow them to purchase the bulk of the headsets for testing.

“Once we’re ready to execute, we will outfit our maintainers and encourage them to use the product as much as possible. We’re going for a single issue rollout, so each airman will be assigned their own headset,” said Pettingill.

RAF Mildenhall’s position as the only installation in the Air Force to be testing this technology is due in large part to the maintenance senior leaders who were convinced of the product’s worthiness.

“It’s a huge honor to be able to test this innovative product,” remarked Pettingill. “We’re afforded the ability to try things out, and that’s why we are so successful. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re the first to do these things. Our leadership has our back.”

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

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.

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(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.”

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(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.”

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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”.

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

(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.

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

(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 TRENDING

It’s now easier for Marines with out-of-regs tattoos to get back in the Corps

A new tweak to Marine Corps policy will reduce paperwork for re-enlisting Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve who have tattoos that fall outside regulations.

The change was shared late March 2018 with career planners and recruiters who work with prior-service Marines, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs. It came via a total force retention system, or TFRS, message, used to share policy updates pertaining to recruiting and retention.


While rules governing when exceptions can be made to tattoo standards aren’t changing, the way cases involving tattoos that fall outside guidelines are processed is.

Previously, a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve looking to go back on active duty would have to complete a tattoo screening request, endorsed by Marine Corps Headquarters, for any undocumented tattoos that don’t comply with policy.

Now, he or she can simply submit a Page 11 administrative counseling form related to the tattoos. Any tattoos that have not been documented during prior service, have not been grandfathered in according to regulations, and fall outside current guidelines require a Page 11 form. This would be created, Carlock said, when a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve visited a recruiter to begin the process for return to active duty.

“They said, ‘Let’s reduce that back-and-forth. Just send me the Page 11,'” Carlock said. “That was what this message was. Let’s streamline it.”

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith)

The change is not, however, the more-lenient tattoo policy that some hoped for.

After receiving the TFRS message, one recruiter made a public post on Facebook announcing newly relaxed policy standards.

“There is no telling how long this is good for but at this moment we can bring “out of regs” Marines to the reserves … this may be the chance to update your training records (promotion) get on some Tricare, make some money, and earn some points towards retirement!!” the recruiter wrote.

That post has since been removed; Carlock said it was erroneous.

“There was no change to tattoo policy. There was a change to the process,” she said.

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U.S. Marine Corps tattoo regulations as of June 2, 2016.
(USMC)

In a December 2017, interview, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com he had no plans to relax the current policy. Marines are still not allowed to get full sleeve tattoos, and there are size limits on tattoos that wrap an arm or leg. Tattoos on the neck, face and hands are also all out.

The most recent tattoo policy change was made in 2016, under Neller. It eased up on some regulations, allowing Marines to get “wedding ring” finger tattoos, and clarified other guidelines. It also gave Marines 120 days to get noncompliant tattoos documented in their personnel file.

Since then, Carlock said, no active-duty Marines have been forced out of service as a result of their tattoos.

“If the recruiters came to me and said, ‘We can’t make mission with this [tattoo] policy,’ I would have to go back and look,” Neller said.

But, he added, that hasn’t happened so far.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face,” Neller said in the December 2017, interview. “We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock-and-roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine.”

Articles

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

The SR-71 Blackbird is an awesome plane. But did you know that it could have been even more awesome than it was? The Air Force was planning to make a fighter version of the plane.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as the early iterations of the SR-71 were being designed, there was a need for an interceptor. The F-108 program had been cancelled due to its high cost. However, there was still a desire for a high-speed, long-range interceptor.

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The YF-12A – a fighter version of the Blackbird capable of carrying four AIM-47 Falcon missiles. (USAF photo)

The A-12 OXCART being developed for the CIA was seen as a likely basis for a fighter. Lockheed’s Skunk Works team soon figured out how to add a powerful radar, the AN/ASG-18, capable of detecting targets from as far off as 500 miles in some cases, and four AIM-47 missiles.

The resulting plane was designated the YF-12, and three prototypes were built.

Designation-Systems.net notes that the AIM-47 had a range of over 100 miles and a speed of Mach 4. While a 250-ton W42 warhead never materialized for this missile, it did get a 100-pound high-explosive warhead.

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An AIM-47 Falcon being loaded into a YF-12. (USAF photo)

News of the the YF-12’s development was leaked in an effort to distract the public from the work being done to make a reconnaissance plane. But the plane – awesome as it was – would not ever see service due to the development of reliable inter-continental ballistic missiles.

The YF-12 would get a production order for 93 airframes from the Air Force. However, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to release the funds, and the project ended up being halted at the three prototypes. Two were handed over to NASA for research flights. One of those crashed after a fuel line caught fire in 1971, with the crew ejecting from the stricken plane.

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A Fighter Squadron 211 (VF-211) F-14A Tomcat aircraft banks into a turn during a flight out of Naval Air Station, Miramar, Calif. The aircraft is carrying six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles.

The YF-12 will remain one of the biggest “could have been” planes in history. The jet still has a legacy – partially in the SR-71 Blackbird, but also in the form of the AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles used by the F-14 Tomcat. Even though this plane never got a chance to serve, it still did a lot for America’s military aviation development.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps F-35Bs are headed to the Middle East for the first time

About 5,000 U.S. troops are sailing toward the Middle East with an F-35B detachment, marking the first time the American Joint Strike Fighters are likely to conduct real-world combat operations.

Sailors and Marines with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit left San Diego in July 2018 for a six-month deployment to the Middle East and Western Pacific. The three-ship ARG includes the amphibious assault ship Essex, amphibious transport dock Anchorage and dock landing ship Rushmore.


The 13th MEU includes an F-35B detachment from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, based out of Yuma, Arizona.

“This is the newest and most lethal aircraft that the Joint Force has, and the fact that it’s coming into the [U.S. Central Command] theater and potentially seeing some combat operations is a big deal,” Lt. Col. Jaime Macias, chief of plans at Marine Corps Forces Central Command, said in a Marine Corps news release leading up to the deployment.

ARG-MEU deployments are typically publicized by the Defense Department, but this one — the first to leave the U.S. with an F-35 attack squadron detachment — was not. Citing operational security, officials declined to explain the change in policy.

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The F-35B Lightning II

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“The Essex Amphibious Ready Group with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit got underway from San Diego, July 10, 2018,” Lt. Tim Gorman, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman, said in a statement. “For reasons of operational security, we are not publicly disclosing any additional details.”

USNI was the first to report on the ARG-MEU’s quiet departure. Members of the MEU this one is set to replace were sent into Syria earlier this year to fight the Islamic State, The Washington Post reported.

The sailors and Marines conducted a six-month-long certification process before departing. The team is ready to respond to crises that erupt during their deployment, according to a Marine Corps video about the workup.

The Marine Corps’ variant of the Lightning II stealth jet is designed for sea deployments since it can take off and land vertically.

“Throughout the training, we’ve seen this platform increase our ability to gain a foothold for our operations,” the video states. “This is the most capable aviation platform to support our riflemen on the ground.”

In addition to the F-35 detachment, the MEU also includes Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines; Combat Logistics Battalion 13; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166; and a command element.

This marks the second time in four months that the F-35B has deployed aboard a Navy ship. In March 2018, members of the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 patrolled the Pacific from aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp.

The East Coast-based Iwo Jima ARG and 26th MEU are slated to wrap up a Middle East deployment in August 2018 as these Marines and sailors move in.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Within the military, being airborne comes with a special brand of badassery that you won’t find within any non-airborne unit, or, as we call them, “legs.” Even more badass are the troops that have proven themselves by jumping directly into combat — like the paratroopers over D-Day or the 75th Rangers at Objective Rhino in Afghanistan.

But jumping into certain danger with nothing but your gear and a parachute isn’t something exclusive to the military. There exists a certain breed of firefighters who are so fearless that they are always on-call to jump into newly-formed wildfires.

Meet the Smokejumpers.


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The relationship between the smokejumpers and Army paratroopers really does run deep.

(U.S. Forest Service photo by E.L. Perry)

Born of a need to quickly get firefighters into middle-of-nowhere locations, the first smokejump was made on July 12th, 1940, into Nez Perce National Forest by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley. They dropped allegedly on a dare, equipped with just enough gear to establish a fire line and hold off the flames until more help could arrive.

That first jump was so successful that smokejumping was quickly adopted throughout many major Forest Services located in rural areas susceptible to wildfires. Then-Major William C. Lee of the U.S. Army saw the smokejumpers training and adapted their methods into the Army’s newly formed airborne school at Ft. Benning — and later into the 101st Airborne Division.

The U.S. Army assigned the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the only all-black airborne unit in U.S. military history, as smokejumpers as a precaution against potential fire balloon bombs that Japan supposedly had at the ready, poised to burn down American forests. The Japanese “Operation Firefly” never came to fruition, but the men of the 555th helped fight natural wildfires, thus further proving the need for smokejumpers

There are countless hoops a firefighter must go through before becoming a smokejumper today. Typically, they’re only selected from firefighters who’ve proven themselves capable as part of both a conventional firefighting unit and a hotshot crew, a small, elite team made up of 20 of the country’s best wildland firefighters who go into the heart of the flames. Then, they must go through a rigorous training schedule, which includes pararescue jumping — regardless of whether they’re an airborne-qualified veteran or not.

Despite the many dangers that smokejumpers face, fatalities within the ranks are infrequent because of the insane amount of planning that goes into each jump. They’ll only jump into a location that is a safe distance away from the flame itself — as the updraft from the flames could catch and incinerate any firefighter — and into areas area clear of slopes or trees. This could require the smokejumper to ruck miles out of the way while carrying up to 150lbs of gear.

When they finally arrive at the fire, they must then determine the likely route the flames with travel and keep clear the way for reinforcements.

For a more in-depth look at how smokejumpers conduct a wildfire mission, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force cancels the OA-X flyoff after a deadly crash

The remaining flyoffs involved in the OA-X program, the U.S. Air Force’s search for a new light attack/armed reconnaissance plane, have been cancelled. The announcement comes after the fatal crash of an A-29 Super Tucano plane, which was one of the two finalists that made the cut for the second phase of the program.

The flyoff was being carried out at Holloman Air Force Base after a planned combat demonstration was cancelled. Lt. Christopher Carey Short, a Navy pilot, was killed in the accident.


The OA-X program, which is officially the “Observation/Attack-X” program, originally evaluated four planes: The Embraer A-29, the Beech AT-6B Wolverine, the AT-802 Longsword, and the Textron Scorpion. Both the AT-802 Longsword and Textron Scorpion were eliminated after the first round of the evaluations.

The objective of the OA-X program was to find and field a partial replacement for the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack plane. Though any partial replacement will find it hard to stack up to the reputation or capabilities of the A-10, it would likely be able to operate in permissive environments, like Afghanistan.

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The T-6 Texan serves as the basis for the AT-6B Wolverine.

(USAF)

Now, however, all flying portions involved in the OA-X program have been concluded.

The eventual winner of the OA-X program is likely to see interest from a number of countries the United States works with in the fight against terrorism. Some of those allies, including the Afghan Air Force, already use the A-29 Super Tucano, while others are already using the T-6 Texan II trainer, the basis for the AT-6.

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The Afghan Air Force used the AT-29 Tucano.

(Photo by Nardisoero)

The planes flying as part of the OA-X program are all able to operate GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Both of those precision-guided bombs are 500-pound weapons. Eligible planes are also able to use rocket pods, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and gun pods.

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The OA-X is intended to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt in providing close-air support in counter-insurgency missions.

(USAF)

The United States Air Force put the A-10 into service in 1977 and bought 716 of the planes. At present, they’re found in 13 squadrons. The Air Force plans to keep these planes in service through 2040, but the search for a replacement (or several partial replacements) is ongoing.

Despite the devastating crash, the program will continue but, until further investigation, all tests will take place on the ground.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how Israel modified F-16s for its unique needs

The Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon has become a legend. It was the star of the 1986 movie, Iron Eagle, in which Doug Masters proved he was a better pilot than Maverick. It serves in many air forces the world over, but one in particular has shown the F-16 a lot of combat action. That’s Israel. All of that combat experience — which includes 47 kills — has lead Israel to make some modifications.


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Ilan Ramon’s IAF F-16A Netz 243, which took part in the 1981 Osirak raid. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor)

This is not a new phenomenon. In 1981, three years after getting their first F-16s, Israel used some Fighting Falcons to take out the Osirak reactor near Baghdad. The flight of almost 700 miles was supposedly beyond the range of the F-16, yet eight Falcons placed 2,000-pound bombs on the target, setting back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program.

So, just how many Falcons does Israel have? Recent counts state that Israel has 224 F-16C/D/I Fighting Falcons on inventory. This is a substantial force — and these are not stock F-16s. Israel’s hacked the F-16 to make it much better than you might expect.

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Israel’s F-16Ds have been modified to serve as precision-strike aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Aldo Bidini)

For instance, while the United States Air Force only uses 370-gallon drop tanks on the F-16, the Israelis use 600-gallon tanks, adding 62 percent more fuel to the external tankage. The Israelis also turned the F-16Ds, normally used as conversion trainers, into precision-strike specialist planes. Israeli planes are also equipped with a lot of Israeli-designed electronic gear, usually for electronic warfare. These hacks have a price – Israeli Vipers are heavier and require modifications to their landing gear.

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A two-ship of Israeli air force F-16Is from Ramon Air Base, Israel, head out to the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 17 during Red Flag 09-4. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite buying a custom version of the F-15E Strike Eagle, called the F-15I, Israel has opted to stick with their own F-16I won, and not just because its capabilities have been forged by combat use. The F-16I is significantly cheaper than the F-15I. Although Israel is among the countries that will acquire the F-35 Lightning, the F-16 will be around for a long time as a key asset for the Israeli Defense Force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.


Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.

What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)

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To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.

The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.

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Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.

Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.

Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.

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Nicolas Maduro.

Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?

If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.

So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.

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Juan Guaido.

(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)

Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.

The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

The Blackhawks are one of the lesser-known superheroes in the DC Comics pantheon today, but from the 1940s to the 1960s, they were big names. The only hero who outsold them during the early years of their run was Superman.


Part of the appeal was their planes. In the 1950s, their primary mount was the Lockheed F-90, which they used to fight off their monster and alien foes.

But here’s the kicker – the plane they flew has some origin in fact, but it never got past the flight test stage.

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F-90 with the Blackhawks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dubbed the “XF-90,” the experimental plane’s tale is one of the few real failures that came from Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works.

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Air Force was looking for a long-range jet fighter to escort bombers to targets. Lockheed went with the F-90, and proceeded to build it in a very sturdy fashion.

The good news was that this was one tough plane, and had six 20mm cannon (enough to blast just about any plane out of the sky), but it weighed 50 percent more than its competitor, the XF-88 Voodoo from McDonnell.

From the get-go, the XF-90 had problems. The plane was underpowered and was outperformed by the F-86A — even when afterburners were added to the plane’s two XJ34 jet engines. The Air Force chose the XF-88 Voodoo to be its penetration fighter, but that never went into production.

Only two XF-90s were built.

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Lockheed had tried a number of other options, including the use of a single J47 engine to boost the F-90s performance, but there was too much re-design work involved. The first F-90 version the Blackhawks used, the F-90B, did feature a single engine. The second version, the F-90C, was said to be lighter version of the F-90B.

The Blackhawks eventually faded — partially due to some bad 1960s storylines — and the super hero team was eventually eclipsed by Batman and many of the superheroes who are familiar today.

And as for the XF-90 prototypes? One was tested to destruction by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the other was banged up in the nuclear tests of the 1950s.

That second plane is currently in storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

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8 awful songs that make combat camera troops want to die

You let us tag along on your convoy. You let us raid a house in the stack. You watched our ass while our head was in a camera viewfinder. You even let us eat your food. So when you ask us for some of the footage of the unit in action we’re happy to oblige.


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You see how combat camera has to face the opposite direction of where all the grunts are looking? We kinda owe you one for stopping whatever comes that way.

When you want us to make a music video of it, no problem, even though we know using copyrighted music is illegal. We want you to keep letting us roll with you…and for you to keep saving our asses.

But then one of your officers tells us to use one of these eight songs and it makes us die inside.

1. Drowning Pool — “Bodies”

This is by far the most overused song ever paired with combat camera footage (with “Soldiers” a close second). And it’s not just commanders asking combat camera to do this. Civilians do this ad nauseam.

That video has more than a million views. A MILLION. I don’t understand the enduring popularity of this song, but if there’s a better or more obvious song about killing a lot of people, I haven’t heard it.

2. Saliva — “Click Click Boom”

A full 20 percent of YouTube is probably the same video footage of the military with this Saliva song — this Saliva song about how great the lead singer’s childhood was and how totally awesome it is that he’s on the radio now.

I wish Beavis and Butthead were around to rip on this band. Still, it does make it pretty easy to edit a video fast, even if I feel like a complete hack afterward.

3. Outkast — “B.O.B.”

Civilians also like to make videos with this song. Which is understandable but, except for the title “Bombs Over Baghdad,” it’s not really about anything military related.

The only lyric the casual listener probably understands for most of the song is “Bombs Over Baghdad,” so when you send it to your mom, she gets the point of the video, and can’t really hear about the struggles of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s pre-stardom struggle.

4. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott — “Hero”

The singers from Nickelback AND Saliva. Enough said. Good lord this song was so big in 2002-2003. You’ll be just as proud of a video featuring you clearing houses to this song as you are your trucker hat collection and your flip phone.

This song was supposed to be an uplifting anthem for the first Spider-Man movie but it’s the most depressing song I’ve ever been asked to use in any video ever. I bet if you asked Kirsten Dunst what the low point of her career was, it would be that she didn’t have the choice to be excluded from this music video.

5. P.O.D. — “Boom”

Another band who sings about how they’re a band now. If you haven’t noticed the trend, guitar riffs and shouting “boom” were super popular in the early 2000s.

P.O.D. is the MySpace of metal. They’re still around but no one knows why.

6. Toby Keith — “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”

This song is so cheesy, I’m actually surprised Chad Kroeger didn’t write it, but maybe there are some things even Pop Rock Jesus won’t do. Some of you might think this song is awesome but I doubt you’d play it at a party in front of all your friends.

Also Toby Keith got more awards and plaques from military units just for singing this song than some people got for actually enlisting after 9/11.

7. Godsmack — “I Stand Alone”

Forget for a moment that the frontman sounds like Adam Sandler’s impression of Eddie Vedder. This song’s lyrics read like they were translated from Nepali by Google Translate. Also, unless your unit is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (it isn’t), you definitely don’t stand alone.

8. AC/DC — “Thunderstruck”

Ok, this isn’t an awful song. I mean, I get why you might want six minutes of your squadron or platoon blowing things up to AC/DC. But, aside from the opening minute and a half or so, this is could be any AC/DC song. All AC/DC songs sound like this. That’s why we love them.

Special Award:

Nazareth — Hair of the Dog

To be honest, this request only happened once, but do you really think any young Marine is going to love watching themselves on a dismounted patrol to this song?

Why not just have me choose something from Chicago’s greatest hits? If I gave any grunt a music video of themselves with this song, they’d beat my Air Force ass so hard.

There’s no joke here, I’d just get my ass kicked.