This is the French missile that can wipe out a city - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

When it comes to missiles, France’s anti-ship Exocet is one of the most notorious. And this is for good reason.


The Falklands War put this ship-killer on the map after it sank the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor. In 1987, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Stark (FFG 31) survived two Exocet hits from an Iraqi plane.

But while the Exocet is easily France’s most recognizable missile, it is not the most deadly. That honor belongs to a missile known as the M51, which is carried aboard the four Le Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarines serving in the French Navy.

According to Deagel.com, the M51 has a range of at least 6,000 kilometers and can carry up to 14 TN-75 warheads — although the usual loadout for the M51 is six warheads in multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
MN Le Terrible (S 619), one of four Le Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines in French service. Each of these carries 16 M51 missiles. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, the TN-75 has a yield of 100 kilotons. Using the NUKEMAP from NuclearSecrecy.org, is a TN-75 were detonated 500 feet over the La Brea tar pits, it would kill nearly 150,000 people and injure just under 495,000.

The fireball would wipe out the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, while the blast wave would destroy the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Cedars Sinai Medical Center, one of the most well-known hospitals in the country, would be seriously damaged. That’s just from one warhead. The other five would likely impact other parts of Los Angeles.

In short, a city the size of LA could be wiped off the map by the pattern of French warheads. Each of France’s Le Triomphant-class submarines can carry 16 M51s.

Find out more about this missile in the video below.

MIGHTY GAMING

11 best video game gifts for any kind of gamer

Whether he spends his weekends streaming on Twitch or if he’s lucky enough to squeeze in a few hours a week, every gaming dad needs the best gear to unlock his next achievement. From the resurgence of retro consoles to the latest in high-resolution headphones, here are 11 gifts that can help any dad level up his game.


This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Nintendo)

1. NES Wireless Controllers for Switch

It’s the perfect hybrid of old-school aesthetics and modern tech. This wireless two-pack brings back the vintage NES controllers as an alternative for the Nintendo Switch. This isn’t some nostalgia cash grab, it’s specifically for the classic NES games you can play on the Switch via the Nintendo eShop. Plus, there are just two updates — the controllers come with two new shoulder buttons.

Get it here for

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(ScufGaming, LLC)

2. SCUF PS4 Controller

Created by eSports innovative tech company Scuf Gaming, this controller reimagines Sony’s DualShock 4 by borrowing the style of the Xbox One controller and ups the customization factor. With additional buttons (paddles, actually) placed under the gamepad, you can create custom button settings allowing you to keep your thumbs on the sticks during any game.

Get it here for 0

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Nintendo)

3. Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit

Nintendo Labo not only gets kids more involved with gaming titles, but it also invokes a DIY spirit before the console is turned on. Their newest kit, the Labo Vehicle, gives you everything you need to craft a cardboard steering wheel and pedal for racers, a joystick for planes, and a submarine wheel for underwater adventure.

Get it here for

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Sony Entertainment, Inc.)

4. PlayStation Classic

Following in the footsteps of the absurdly successful and adorably cute retro consoles by Nintendo, Sony is dipping its toes in the nostalgia pool with their PlayStation One Classic. Roughy 45% smaller than the 1994 original, the Classic comes with two wired controllers, an internal memory card, and 20 preloaded titles including Metal Gear Solid, Ridge Racer 4, Twisted Metal and Rayman.

Get it here for 0

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(SteelSeries)

5. Arctis Pro + GameDAC Steelseries Headset

The world’s first certified high-res gaming headphones may just be the best set of cans for gaming. The headphones can take PS4 or PC audio and deliver lossless, crystal clear sound. Not to mention, they’re equipped for online chat with a built-in retractable mic, comfy leather ear cushions, and the Arctis signature ski goggle suspension strap over the steel headband for a perfect fit. Choose a reliable wired controller, or go wireless.

Get it here for 0

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Sony Entertainment, Inc.)

6. PlayStation 4 Pro Red Dead Redemption 2 Bundle

Fans of Red Dead Redemption have waited eight long years to traverse the wild west once again. Red Dead Redemption 2 is already being called an all-time great, and Sony is celebrating the critically acclaimed sequel with a PS4 Pro bundle. The PS4 Pro itself may have no RDR2 inspired decorations or skins, but with the game in full 4K glory, no one will ever look at the console.

Get it here for 0

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Oculus VR)

7. Oculus Go

Delivering the best VR visuals with no PC or wired connection needed, and at half the price of the Oculus Rift, Go is the sleekest VR headset to date. The elastic straps on the Go make for the most pleasant fitting VR headset available, and with thousands of compatible apps for the Go, you’ll appreciate the comfort after a few hours.

Get it here for 0

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Harper Paperbacks)

8. Blood Sweat & Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

It can take hundreds of people countless hours over a number of years to create one single game. All of that work often goes unnoticed, until now. Jason Schreier, an editor at Kotaku, takes readers through first-hand tales of video game development from the biggest AAA games to the smallest indies, giving credit to the unsung heroes behind your favorite games including Destiny, Dragon Age, and games that made it to consoles.

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This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(fangamer)

9. Super Mario Pipe Mug

This ceramic mug can help you level up with 14 ounces of the drink of your choice. It’s dishwasher and microwave safe. But these are the homes of piranha plants, so consider yourself warned.

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This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Microsoft)

10. Xbox One Fortnite Bundle

It’s the biggest video game of 2018, and Microsoft is piggybacking off of the popular title with an Xbox One S bundle. The 1TB edition comes with a full download of the first person shooter and a DLC complete with different skins, 2,000 in-game money (V-Bucks) and a free month to Xbox Live. It’s worth nothing, Fortnite has cross-platform play, so you can take on friends who are playing on other gaming systems.

Get it here for 0

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

(Kontrol Freek)

11. Kontrol Freek Thumbsticks

According to the science from Kontrol Freek, the company feels every gamer would see an improvement in performance if every thumbstick on current controllers were just taller. Freek says their sticks ups your accuracy and takes the tension off your thumbs. And with a slew of different styles, colors, and game themes, you can find the thumbstick that’s just right for you.

Get it here for

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What you need to know about the banned missile the US is developing

Thirty years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground launched-surface-to-surface missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,417 miles). This treaty held through the 1990s and most of the 2000s, but in recent years, there have been allegations of Russian non-compliance.


According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the United States has begun development of a ground-launched cruise missile. The last such system the United States had in service was the BGM-109G Gryphon, a version of the Tomahawk cruise missile still used by the United States Navy. It was one of three systems scrapped by the United States in compliance with the INF Treaty.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
A BGM-109G Gryphon is launched. (DOD photo)

Details on the new missile are scarce, as the system’s development has begun. One likely option would be to try to bring back the ground-launched version of the Tomahawk. Another option could be to launch Tomahawks from an Aegis Ashore base. The Tomahawk can be launched from the same vertical-launch cells as the RIM-161 Standard Missile, or SM-3, used in Aegis Ashore. A 2016 release from Lockheed Martin noted that an Aegis Ashore base in Romania is active, and one in Poland is under construction.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the Pentagon’s intention is to hopefully force Russia to comply with the 1987 treaty. However, should Russia not go back into compliance, a source told the paper that the United States is determined to be ready if the Russians choose to “live in a post-INF world … if that is the world the Russians want,” as one official put it.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

The Hill reported that during meetings with other NATO defense ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Secretary of Defense James Mattis states that Russia’s violations raise “concern about Russia’s willingness to live up to the accords that it’s signed, the treaties it’s signed.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this EOD badass dismantle an IED with a pickaxe and pliers


https://twitter.com/HKaaman/statuses/1250100750803447808

Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.

BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.

The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.

Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.

Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.

This is definitely better than cat videos.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is why a modern torpedo sinks a ship with one hit

If you’ve seen any submarine-themed movie, whether it’s Hunt for Red October, the classic Operation Pacific, or Crimson Tide, you understand the severity of an incoming torpedo. Anyone who knows naval history knows that torpedoes are lethal to ships – just look at what they did to the liner Lusitania, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7), and a host of other ships.


Back through World War II, the primary way torpedoes did their damage was with a direct hit. The impact of the torpedo on a ship’s hull would drive a firing pin that sets off a warhead. The hope here is that the blast punches a hole in a ship, allowing water to flood in, causing the ship to list to one side or the other and, eventually, capsize. Generally, this approach worked well, but it could take many direct hits to do damage enough to sink a vessel. The Japanese battleship Musashi, for example, took over twenty hits from Mk 13 air-dropped torpedoes before she went down.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
One of many air attacks carried out on HIJMS Musashi during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It took over 20 torpedo hits to put that ship on the bottom. (US Navy photo)

This was a problem — as defensive anti-aircraft capability developed, planes launching torpedoes needed to do so from higher altitudes, at faster speeds, and from further away in order to survive. This was not conducive to scoring the many hits you needed to sink the enemy ship.

In fact, with rare exceptions, the only vessels that use heavy anti-ship torpedoes today are submarines. The torpedoes used by planes and ships are often less than 13 inches wide and hold warheads packed with less than 100 pounds of high explosive. They’re not that good against surface ships, but you don’t need much to sink a sub that’s a few hundred feet below the surface of the ocean.

The heavy torpedoes themselves have also evolved, and not just in tracking capabilities.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
USNS Concord during her service with the United States Navy. She was nearly 600 feet long, displaced just under 19,000 tons fully loaded, and was sunk by one torpedo during a RIMPAC exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Haws)

During World War II, the United States Navy fielded torpedoes equipped with magnetic exploders. However, they didn’t quite work right. With bigger fish to fry and a war to fight, the U.S. Navy simply disabled them and went on fielding functional, contact exploders. These torpedoes helped force Japan’s surrender.

But the magnetic exploder concept wasn’t forgotten after the war — and for good reason: Hitting the hull does some damage, but if you want to really kill a ship, it’s best to break it in two. The best way to do that is to set off the explosion just below a ship. That will damage the ship’s keel in a process called “breaking its back.” Modern torpedoes with magnetic exploders are designed to do exactly that.

You can see what that does to the former USNS Concord (ex-AFS 5) in the video below.

 

Articles

Here’s a look at the likely finalists for the new XM17 modular handgun

For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.


Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:

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The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.

Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.

An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.

“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.

So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?

Glock

By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.

In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)

While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.

Smith Wesson

Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.

Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.

Smith  Wesson has teamed with General Dynamics to compete for the Army XM17 Modular Handgun System program. Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)

And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.

That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.

But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
Photo from Sig Sauer

You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.

And it’s this off-the-shelf modularity that leads many to believe the P320 is the odds-on favorite to win the XM17 handgun program.

Will it happen?

The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.

For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.

Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.

It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.

So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 stealth fighter is still struggling with some big problems

America’s most expensive weapon — Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter — is still struggling with a number of serious problems, such as destructive chain reactions triggered by a flat tire, a weird green glow on the helmet display that makes it difficult to land on aircraft carriers, and a loss of stealth at supersonic speeds.

Documents obtained by Defense News indicate that the US military’s fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters continue to suffer from more than a dozen issues that could potentially put pilots at risk or jeopardize a mission.

The F-35 program managed to cut the number of category 1 deficiencies down from 111 at the start of last year to 64 in May 2018 to just 13 as the aircraft headed into operational testing last fall. But some of the remaining issues are very problematic.


For instance, in cold weather conditions, the F-35 may falsely report that a battery has failed, a problem that has resulted in aborted missions.

When its hot out, older engines on the short takeoff/vertical landing variant sometimes have trouble producing the necessary thrust to keep the fighter in the air, leading to an unplanned a hard landing.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

There have also been issues with unusual spikes in cabin pressure in the cockpit causing pain in the ears and sinuses, Defense News reports.

One particular problem that really stood out to a retired fighter pilot was that in some cases, after completing certain maneuvers, F-35B and F-35C pilots have lost the ability to fully control the fighter’s pitch, roll, and yaw.

The F-35 program, by the US military’s own admission, has been “troubled,” suffering from production problems, ballooning costs, delivery delays, and numerous technical challenges.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has colorfully described the F-35 program, the cost of which recently grew by tens of billions of dollars, as “f—ed up.”

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

News of the F-35s problems comes as the Pentagon and Lockheed discuss ramping up to full-rate production, increasing annual delivery from 91 to 160 jets within the next few years. The F-35 Joint Program Office told Defense News that not all of the problems will be addressed before the full-rate production decision.

While the problems reported by Defense News sound alarming, defense officials who spoke to the outlet downplayed their seriousness, with one explaining that the current category 1 deficiencies affecting the F-35 are ones “that have a mission impact with a current workaround that’s acceptable to the war fighter with the knowledge that we will be able to correct that deficiency at some future time.”

A naval aviator told the outlet that the current problems are “growing pains” that are to be expected.

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

Articles

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.


In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.

 

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
WIRED FOR DISCOVERY. Earl Shamwell, one of the authors, sets up a multisensor robotics testbed to collect images, LIDAR data and inertial measurements. Researchers aim to improve robotic performance by closing the gap between what a robot expects to happen and what actually happens. (Photo by Jhi Scott, ARL)

What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.

We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.

‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’

Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.

Related: Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.

The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.

We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.

Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.

A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.

NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’

In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.

Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.

All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.

Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
Army researchers brief a Japanese industry delegation on a unique robot with strong, dexterous arms during an Oct. 5, 2016, visit to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF

Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.

Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.

For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.

Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.

CONCLUSION

At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.

A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.

Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.

If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.

Also read: The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

For more information about ARL collaboration opportunities in the science for maneuver, go to http://www.arl.army.mil/opencampus/.

DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.

This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.

Subscribe to Army ALT News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) Workforce.

Articles

DARPA’s newest tech will give pilots X-ray vision

The official Mad Scientists of war, otherwise known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employees, have crafted a way for helicopter pilots to see through dust, snow, and smoke to fly safely even when their view is blocked.


This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton A. Precht

Currently, low-visibility conditions lead to crashes and collisions that cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars and can lead to troops’ deaths. Brownouts, when helicopter pilots lose visibility due to dust kicked up by their rotors or sandstorms, have caused a number of crashes in the recent wars in the desert.

The Multifunction RF program is developing a full sensor package that will scan the environment for hazards and report them to the pilot, even when fog, dust, or other obscurants block the pilots’ vision.

The system maps terrain and landing zones in brownouts or whiteouts, prevents collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, and warns of weather hazards.

When the pilot is in combat, the system will aid in identifying and acquiring targets, guiding weapons, and linking the data feeds of different aircraft.

Ideally, the system will work as a “plug and play” add-on to current and future aircraft. Everything from modern helicopters to drones to the coming Joint Multi-Role Aircraft will feature the technology.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the NVGs we’ve all been waiting for

US Night Vision is one of the largest distributors of night vision optics and accessories in the world. As such, they have a couple new products of interest that made their way to SHOT Show 2019.

The Harris F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular has actually been around for a couple of years, but for whatever reason, Harris chose not to push it on the market and kept it on the back burner. This competitor to the L3 PVS1531 features white phosphor tubes and a unique close-focus technology that allows users to perform intricate tasks under night vision.


This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular.

As many a user of helmet-mounted night vision has experienced, most NVGs will blackout when the user tilts their head to look upward. The F5032 has an intuitive vertical viewing capability that recognizes when the optics are in use and prevents the automatic tilt shutoff from activating, so that the goggles only shutoff when placed in the stowed position. This is sure to be a huge selling point for those who spend time working under aircraft or ascending vertical structures.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

A view through the white phosphor F5032.

The F5032 has an integrated LED IR illuminator to reduce the need for external IR illumination devices. The image intensifier tubes are serviceable at the unit level, making it easier for them to be repaired without the extended downtime that comes from shipping them back to the company. The F5032 uses a standard dovetail mounting bracket for compatibility with the Wilcox NVG mount.

Also new from US Night Vision is the BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder. This minimalistic recording device attaches to the eyepiece of the ocular lens of your night vision optic (optic specific) to record whatever you are viewing. The unit supports up to 128gb Micro SD for nine hours of record time with minute by minute seamless High Definition 1920×1080 30fps recording.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city

BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder attached to a PVS14.

The LPMR-MK2 has an integrated microphone to capture audio and is externally powered via USB to accommodate a wide variety of battery sources. To make operation simple, the LPMR automatically begins recording when powered on, so there are no external buttons to fool with, and the operator doesn’t have to wonder if what if what they are seeing is actually being captured or not.

The unit weighs less than 1.5oz, so the added weight to night vision optics is minimal. The upfront placement of the device also reduces the amount of leverage placed on the helmet, so the user doesn’t have extra forward weight pulling down on their helmet. This recorder is sure to be a hit with military and law enforcement who have a need to record low-light training or real-world operations for after-action evaluation or courtroom purposes.

More information on these and other new products from US Night Vision can be found here.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. VMA-231 deployed to Afghanistan to provide close air support for counter-insurgency operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)


Dubbed the “widow-maker” in some aviation circles, the AV-8 Harrier is as dangerous to America’s enemies as it is to the pilots who commandeer it.

From its commissioning to as recent as 2013, there have been about 110 fighters involved in Class A mishaps — accidents causing death, permanent injury or at least $1 million in losses.

Related: This Marine pilot makes landing his Harrier fighter on a stool look easy

“Measured by its major accident rate per 100,000 flight hours, which is the military standard, the Harrier is the most dangerous plane in the U.S. military,” said Los Angeles Times reporter Alan C. Miller in the video below. “Overall the Marines have lost more than one-third of the entire Harrier fleet to accidents.”

The first Harrier model, the AV-8A had a Class A mishap rate of 31.77 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The Marines improved the rate to 11.44 per 100,000 hours with the introduction of the AV-8B in the mid-1980s, according to Miller.

By contrast, the Harrier has more than twice the accident rate of the F-16, more than three times the rate of the F/A-18, and about five times the rate of A-10.

Despite its astronomical accident rate, the fighter is beloved and remains in service more than 40 years since its introduction in 1971.

“One Marine general who flew the plane early on described it as an answer to a prayer,” Miller said.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to the air combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) performs a vertical landing on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer June 16, 2013. Boxer is conducting amphibious squadron and MEU integrated training.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

The Corps’ need for an aircraft with a vertical landing and short takeoff capability can be traced to the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal. The Marines lost over 1,000 men during that fight and felt abandoned by the Navy to fend for themselves.

“Since then, the precept that the Marines in the air should protect the Marines on the ground has been an essential part of the Corps’ ethos,” Miller said.

This History Channel video shows how the Harrier supports the Marine Corps’ mission to fight anywhere, anytime regardless of the risks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUFBV–62tA

Engineering Channel, YouTube

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‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”

The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?

Well… no.


This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
The military actually employs thousands of people to maintain and repair “military grade” equipment. (Photo By: Master Sgt. Benari Poulten 80th Training Command Public Affairs)

 

The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.

The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.

It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.

This is the French missile that can wipe out a city
Believe it or not, this is not how Marines test new gear. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel)

 

For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.

But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.

Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is the spectacular view from a U2 spy plane at 70,000 feet

The U2 was produced in 1955 by Lockheed’s Skunk Works for aerial reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union. The proposal to build a plane that could fly 70,000 feet came from the need to fly beyond the reach of Soviet fighters, missiles, and radar; basically, anything that could threaten it.


Related: A successor to the storied U2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The U.S. Air Force solicited designs from several aircraft companies, including Lockheed before settling on the winning concept. Lockheed’s first try, by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson—its best aeronautical engineer at the time—included the base of an XF-104 with elongated wings and a shortened fuselage named CL-282. The design was essentially a jet-powered glider; it had a single jet engine, had no landing gear, but could reach an altitude of 73,000 feet. Gen. Curtis LeMay famously walked out during the design’s presentation, saying that he was not interested in an airplane without wheels or guns.

After the rejection and several iterations later, Lockheed submitted the design for the U2 spy plane, nicknamed “Dragon Lady.” Its basic design is still in use today, thanks to its meticulous Programmed Depot Maintenance inspections every 4,700 flight hours.

While the aircraft didn’t fully adopt the no wheels design, it did find a compromise. Instead of the typical tricycle landing gear used in most aircraft, the U2 uses a bicycle configuration with a forward and aft set of landing wheels. This minimalist approach and other design elements make the airplane lighter, which is one of the main reasons the airplane can cruise at such a high speed.

This video shows spectacular footage from the cockpit of the U2 spy plane at 70,000 feet above the Earth. Watch:

Gung Ho Vids, YouTube
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