When companies mass-produce Greek-style yogurt, there’s a significant output of what they call “waste” product. The acid whey — milk sugar, fructose, and lactic acid — is still edible, but it’s not used in the product. Researchers have found that a few modifications to the whey can turn it into a fuel for jet engines.
When the yogurt is produced, the protein is strained from milk, leaving behind a watery liquid whey. The mixture of acids and sugars is prime food for certain kinds of bacteria. As the bacteria feed on the acid whey in an oxygen-deprived environment, they create caproic acid and caprylic acid, a kind of “bio-oil.”
The process is the same as what goes on in the human stomach. The bacteria in human stomachs convert food into different acids, which fuel the body.
The dairy sector of the agricultural market has what Cornell researcher Dr. Lars Angenent calls, “a very large carbon footprint.” His work is focused on creating closed, sustainable cycles of production. The researchers added bacteria to the waste product to create a natural antibiotic for cattle.
Angenent’s team created two “open-culture” reactors, featuring bacteria feasting on the waste products at two different temperatures and extracting the flammable gas given off. The team’s next step is to scale-up the reactor’s size and create changes that increase both the efficiency of the reactions and how the oil is collected.
Once that process is more economical, the bio-oil production could become a sustainable source of fuel. At the same time, it will make the agricultural sector more profitable and less wasteful.
When your slogan is “World’s most battle-proven firearms,” you had better be able to back it up, right? While introducing the question of what company actually has that to a random set of gun guys might yield a lot of answers, most of them would be wrong. Like cars and shoes, people tend to be brand loyal with their firearms without actually crunching the data. But the data in this case leaves only one answer: FN.
FN Herstal, and its subsidiary FN America, have made the weapons that were carried across the beaches of Normandy all the way to the mountains of Afghanistan. While we could have chosen from many arms best suited to back up FN’s claim, these top 6 are absolutely stunning in depth. Any one of them could be number one, so consider these in no particular order. A great amount of FN’s contributions to this list come from the brilliant mind of John Moses Browning. Later in his life, Fabrique Nationale, now known simply as FN, became the go-to for Browning and is also the owner of his namesake company, Browning.
So here we go, in an order that no one could call descending, 6 guns that are battle-proven and stunning:
Browning High Power
The very first iteration of this pistol was called the GP 35 or Grand Puissance and was completed by Dieudonne Saive, a protege of John M. Browning, who took over the design when JMB died at their factory in 1926.
Saive is also the engineer that developed the modern double-stacked magazine, first introduced on the FN High Power.
Known as the High Power (and, later, the “Hi Power”) because when it was created it carried 13 rounds of 9mm, when most handguns carried 7, the High Power was ahead of its time. It has been used in conflicts from 1935 to the present, from WW2 to the Falklands to Syria. It was the classic favorite of not only the SAS but many Commando Units from across the world. These guns are still highly prized.
Canadian military still uses the High Power. They have an interesting connection to the design after the plans were secreted out of Belgium before the German occupation of FN’s factory. The Canadians, under the Inglis brand, produced their own.
A version of the FN FAL used by West German soldiers in 1960.
FN FAL, aka “ The Right Arm of the Free World”
Right Arm of the Free World is not an easy nickname to get, but it is well earned with the FN FAL. FAL stands for Fusil Automatique Leger, which is French for “Light Automatic Rifle.” Prototyped in 7.92x33mm Kurz and again in 280 British, most examples historically are 308 (7.62x51mm). At a time the world was recovering from WW2, and in desperate need of a new rifle, the FAL entered service in an eventual 90 nations as their service rifle.
The British called it the L1A1, and it stood across the Cold War from the AK-47. So many FAL’s were produced that on occasion, opposing armies have both been carrying them. It was a favorite worldwide and is still in use today. I had a captured Paratrooper model in Iraq that I was absolutely in love with, and sadly had to leave behind due to its auto switch.
M2 50 Caliber BMG, aka The Ma Deuce
This is a weird one, because it isn’t an FN exclusive design, nor does FN currently hold the contract for the M2. Due to World War requirements, dozens of companies made M2 machine guns, much the same way Singer sewing machines made 1911’s. But, FN has been producing M2’s since the 1930s, and you may have actually used one in the service. Arguably the longest serving weapon in U.S. history, the M2 needs no introduction. From an anti-aircraft role in WW2, to Kandahar last week, the M2 has served on every battlefield imaginable.
FN currently produces the M2 in a Quick Change Barrel or QCB model for vehicle or boat pintle mounts. They also produce the FN M3M designated as the GAU-21 which is in service with the U.S. Navy.
I am counting this as one weapon, though it is a family of weapons. Something that may surprise you: If you were in the military after 1988, odds are pretty good that your service rifle was an FN. FN first won the contract, beating out Colt, for M-16 production in 1988. They created the M16A4 for the USMC in the Global War on Terror out of whole cloth, and again beat Colt for the M-4 contract in 2013. In addition to serving the U.S. military, FN has armed what can only be called a metric grundle of other nations with M-16/4 weapons over the decades. FN’s production tops one million units of M16/M4 carbines for DoD.
Again this could count as multiple weapons, but I’m considering it one since the M249 is basically a scaled down M240. It might surprise you to learn it has been in service (240 version) since 1958. It is issued in 80 militaries, and has been made under license by FN in Canada, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. It has many names, such as the GPMG for you Brits, and sets the standard across the globe as the medium machine gun of choice. While the M240 (7.62x51mm) is older, the smaller M249 (5.56x45mm) has actually been around for some time as well. It was designed in 1976, and entered US service in 1984.
It is well known enough to also have many names, such as “Minimi” to our cousins across the pond. It has been used in every U.S. conflict since the invasion of Panama in 1989, and was a personal favorite of mine in the GWOT. I think a great many of us GWOT veterans, including myself, can say this. I came home on my feet instead of in a body bag more than once because I was carrying an FNH machine gun.
U.S. Navy SEAL with a SCAR.
SCAR- aka “ Special (operations forces) Combat Assault Rifle”
This one hasn’t seen quite as many conflicts, having been only produced in 2004. But it does represent the future for FN. Available in either 5.56 (Light Variant) or 7.62×51 (Heavy Variant), and as of January 2020, 6.5 Creedmoor, the SCAR has been a rising star. It won the SOCOM service trials for the U.S., and entered service in 2009. The Heavy version became very popular among troops headed to Afghanistan, and has entered the service of 20 nations. Rapidly user configurable for various mission roles, the SCAR continues to evolve. Considering FN’s previous reputation, I think we can expect this one to be around for a good long time.
Living up to a slogan that proclaims the world’s most anything might be tough to do, until you’ve held an FN product.
The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.
According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.
The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.
The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.
The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”
Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.
These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.
Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.
Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.
Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.
The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.
“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.
According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.
US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)
The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.
Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.
“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”
Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.
Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)
SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.
“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”
The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.
“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”
Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.
“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While North Korea is in the headlines over Kim Jong Un’s push for intercontinental ballistic missiles, India has quietly carried out its own arms race and is building a very solid nuclear triad for strategic deterrence.
According to a report from Bloomberg News, India’s efforts are bearing fruit — a marked contrast to those of the North Koreans, which apparently drove Kim Jong Un to get blackout drunk and demand apologies from his generals.
The missile India tested was the Agni V, which GlobalSecurity.org notes has a range of about 2,700 nautical miles. This would allow the missile to hit most of the People’s Republic of China.
India made news earlier this year when it commissioned the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant. This submarine, capable of carrying four K-4 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, puts India into the “boomer club” with the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia.
Bloomberg News reported that the Agni V missile was launched from a Road Mobile Launcher. The Federation of American Scientists notes that the Soviet Union’s SS-25 Sickle (later taken over by the Russian Federation) was also designed as a road-mobile system.
According to Designation-Systems.net, the United States planned to use the MGM-134 Midgetman as a road-mobile system, but it was cancelled at the end of the Cold War.
The Indian Air Force has a number of aircraft that could carry nuclear weapons, including the MiG-27, the Jaguar, and GlobalSecurity.org reports that Indian Tu-142 “Bear F” anti-submarine escorts have been wired to accept air-launched cruise missiles.
What makes an air force good? Is it combat capability? Is it their track record? Much of that can stir up debates and cause one heck of a…disagreement among patrons at any watering hole or establishment.
Then again…life gets boring without such things.
So, here’s a look at the eleven best air forces in the world:
11. Russian Air Force
The Russians have been working on some new planes, but most of their very large force is old. Still, quantity can have a quality all on its own.
Russia also has long-range bombers and some tankers and airborne early warning planes. It’s just they are old, and maintenance levels have fallen off since the Cold War ended.
10. Republic of Korea Air Force
South Korea’s air force has come a long way in the same timeframe as China. F-5s and F-4s have been replaced by F-16s, and they developed the T-50 Golden Eagle, which is a very capable advanced trainer — so much so it has also been turned into a multi-role fighter as well.
9. People’s Liberation Army Air Force (includes People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force)
Twenty years ago, the bulk of China’s planes were copies of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Today, many of the planes are from the “Flanker family,” including home-grown versions like the J-11, J-11B, J-15, and J-16.
China also has the indigenous J-10 and JH-7, while also flying two fifth-generation designs.
8. Indian Air Force (including Indian Navy)
This country has won a few wars, and also has developed some of their own planes in the past and present. The only reason they are behind the Saudis is their reliance on Russian airframes, while the Saudis and Japanese have F-15s.
Having the second-best carrier aviation arm doesn’t hurt.
7. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (including Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)
Japan could rank higher, but they have limited themselves due to Article 9 of their post-World War II constitution.
While they are stretching the boundaries, the lack of real ground-attack capabilities is very telling. But they have very good air-to-air, anti-surface ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.
With four “helicopter destroyers” that are really small carriers, Japan could vault up very quickly.
6. Royal Saudi Air Force
In 1990, the Royal Saudi Air Force had nice gear, but there was an open question of how well they could use them. Today, they’ve been upgrading the gear, and they have combat experience. This 1-2 combination is enough to vault them into the top air forces.
5. United States Marine Corps
The Marines really do close-air support well. Not that they haven’t had aces in their history, but the last air-to-air kill a Marine scored was during the Vietnam War.
Then there are the issues with their F/A-18s, and the need to pull airframes from the boneyard.
4. Royal Air Force (including the Fleet Air Arm)
This is a very capable, albeit small, force. The problem is “the Few” are becoming “fewer” — and there have been some uncomfortable gaps, including the early retirement of their Harrier force, which was a poor way to repay the airframe that won the Falklands War.
The fact that the Royal Navy’s new carrier will have to deploy with United States Marines says a lot.
3. Israeli Defense Force
The Israelis have had a good air force — much of it based on need. Yes, the airframes are American designs, but the Israelis have installed their own electronics on the F-15I and F-16I planes that are now the backbone of their military.
Plus, their pilots are very, very good.
1. United States Air Force and United States Navy (tie)
The Air Force and Navy have long been rivals – always trying to one-up each other. But in this case, the two are in a virtual tie. While the United States Air Force has strategic bombers the Navy doesn’t, the Navy, by virtue of its carrier fleet, is much more responsive.
The two services are complimentary and each are very good at what they do.
Nicknamed the “Dragon Lady” and developed by Lockheed Martin, the U-2 spy plane was made famous in the 1960s when one was shot down conducting a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union.
Today, the surveillance jet continues its duty as it searches for threats in Afghanistan. Once the pilot detects a potential hazard to coalition forces, it locks onto the attacker’s location and sends the signal 7,000 miles away to Beale Air Force Base in California. Once the base receives the incoming traffic, the surveillance analysts decode the information and track the enemy movement.
As the analysts locate the threat, the surveillance team quickly intervenes and relays the vital information down to ground troops. With the highly sophisticated onboard radio system, the U-2 spy plane can then assist in choreographing with nearby fighter jets to initiate a strike tactic on enemy forces below before they manage to assault allied forces.
With its incredible versatility, the spy plane can conduct its mission from an altitude of 70,000 feet.
Before you laugh it off and remind us all that Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War are just movies (and/or comics) and should not be taken seriously, let me remind you there are numerous examples of sci-fi and fantasy leading to the development of real-world technology. Video calling, holographic projections, tablets, Bluetooth devices, and even tractor beams were all inventions of fiction that later became reality. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the U.S. is currently building the TALOS suit, an Iron Man-inspired suit of mechanical armor.
So, it’s not all that surprising that a CIA scientist would break down Wakanda’s advanced, fantastic tech to see what’s possible — and to see what could become a real threat.
Inching toward being the first supervillain, one day at a time.
Vibranium is the rare metal that Wakanda has in abundance, deposited there by an asteroid 10,000 years ago. The metal can absorb vibrations from all kinetic energy, which includes both conventional and energy weapons. The ability of the metal to absorb vibration also means it absorbs sounds. This material is what makes Captain America’s shield indestructible.
A real-world metal with these comic-book properties doesn’t exist, but there are a few substances that come close, according to “Rebecca,” the CIA’s scientist.
Tungsten Carbide – This chemical compound can compress materials and store energy to be released later.
Diamond nanothreads – Carbon atoms bonded together the way they are seen in diamonds can hold a lot of energy when woven into fabric.
Vibranium – Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is developing a material they call “Vibranium” (because of course Elon Musk is), a woven carbon alloy that is eight times stronger than steel and five times lighter. The threads can also store and send data about its condition.
2. Tactical Sand
Vibranium-infused sand forms real-time depictions of tactical situations — it’s data visualization using sound waves to form shapes in the sand. The technology may be fictional, but the theory behind it is very much a reality. Rebecca says it’s based on Chladni’s law, which states that different sound frequencies cause sand to form different patterns.
But a pattern isn’t a tactical display. What about the actual data coming in, can that be represented in sand? The answer is yes, and MIT is doing it right now. Researchers can make sand respond to real-time movements, using it as they would pixels, allowing people who are in a remote area to interact with data in real time.
3. Kimoyo Beads
Tiny beads of vibranium that can hold personal data or perform specific functions, all triggered by touch, are a feature of every Wakandan.
Devices that can be engaged via touch clearly exist (most of you are reading this on a touchscreen device, after all) as does remote control technology. The problem, at the moment, is in the holographic communication. The physics of light waves and the space required for holographic projections restricts this technological function.
What excited “Rebecca” most about Kimoyo beads is the use of blockchain technology in storing personal information. Blockchain technology means data is not stored in a central server and is therefore much less vulnerable to hacking and theft than traditional databases.
Unfortunately the nanomachines just shred whatever clothing you’re wearing.
4. The Panther Habit
T’Challa’s Black Panther suit is comprised of woven Vibranium nanoparticles, tiny machines that emanate from his necklace, swarming over his skin and forming a protective suit that can absorb energy, regenerate, and self-replicate.
Rebecca notes that nanotechnology is primarily being developed in the medical field right now, but swarm intelligence like the kind used by the Panther Habit is being developed for use with drones. As for lightweight cloth that can absorb vibrations and shocks, there are a few companies who are working on similar technologies that have a lot of interest from national sports leagues, the U.S. military, and law enforcement.
5. Invisibility Cloaks
Using lens technology to bend light around objects, like the tech being developed at the University of Rochester, gives researchers the ability to hide objects. Right now, this technology only works on human vision, and must be seen through the lens, but the evidence below is pretty amazing.
Nanotechnology opens the door to real invisibility cloaking, and is already being done on a very, very small scale. But the CIA’s scientist points out that hiding a whole country from satellites that have radiation and heat detection is still going to be very unlikely, even if it can’t be seen with the human eye.
6. Basotho Blankets
Basotho blankets are the amazing tribal blankets worn by the border tribe that just happen to double as deflector shields. Unfortunately, even if we consider vibranium to have near-magical properties, light will never be able to stop a physical object or other light, as Rebecca points out.
She does point to another way to create an energy shield:
“In Physics of the Impossible, physicist Michio Kaku says that you’d need a “plasma window,” a frame in which gas could be heated to 12,000°F, to vaporize metals (even vibranium?) Alternately you might use high-energy laser beams that crisscrossed each other, to vaporize objects, but both of these require more rigid structure than a cloak. Back to carbon nanotubes! If you could weave those into a lattice (or a cloak), they could create a screen of enormous strength, capable of repelling most objects. The screen would be invisible, since each carbon nanotube is atomic in size, but the carbon nanotube lattice would be stronger than any ordinary material. Add in some cool hologram effects, and you could have a pretty nifty shield that would be the envy of any intelligence service operating in a warzone.”
The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.
“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.
“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.
Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”
“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”
An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.
“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you hear the word “jetpack,” you picture someone zooming through the sky like the Rocketeer. But DARPA and Arizona State University’s version of the jetpack is a complete let down.
“We’re not able to fly with our jetpack,” said graduate engineer Jason Kerestes, in a video from Arizona State University. “We have instantaneous thrust and we can pretty much trigger it to allow for faster movement and agile motions.”
The pack is designed to enable troops to run a mile in four minutes, but it doesn’t look like they’re quite there yet. At 3:07 of the video, the engineers say to a runner that his time improvement with the jetpack was only three seconds.
The Coast Guard has been on patrol since 1790, and it has often had to do a lot with very little in the way of assets. Now, some of the assets it does have may be relatively useless.
According to a veteran Coast Guard officer who published his concerns in Proceedings magazine, a number of the major cutters (those over 210 feet in length) are “ill-equipped—and often ill-suited—to handle the challenges and dangers in their areas of operation.” Furthermore, one 210-foot cutter was in dry dock for six months, with two more months at the pier when it should have deployed, due to “unplanned maintenance.”
Drills for the crew are focused more on damage control than maritime law enforcement.
“By continuing its over reliance on the cutter—specifically, large cutters measuring 210 feet and longer—the Coast Guard has fallen behind and become a stagnant force in the maritime domain,” write Lt. David Allan Adams, Jr. “This is, of course, not because of a lack of effort by the hardworking Coasties stationed on cutters, but rather because the white hull fleet is well over 50 years old and ill-equipped—and often ill-suited—to handle the challenges and dangers in their areas of operation.”
Even the newest Coast Guard cutters, the Legend-class National Security Cutters that are replacing the Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters, have had issues, with a 2016 report from McClatchy news service noting that the new ships suffered four cracked cylinder heads a year.
“Junior officers stationed on cutters can testify to the poor material condition of the cutters and the disillusionment cutter life can instill,” Adams wrote. “The life of a JO is not about conducting law enforcement or conning the cutter — as promised at recruitment — but more about routing and correcting memorandums, being held accountable should an inspection go poorly, and striving to perform in the arena in which the JOs’ future is truly held: the underway wardroom.”
The problem has been widespread. A 2014 NJ.com report noted that 34 cutters and 37 patrol boats were unable to deploy for a combined total of 1,654 days. The Coast Guard has also been very short on icebreakers, with one of its most capable vessels in that mission stuck at the pier.
The Coast Guard, of course, has a substantial job, with a mission to secure America’s maritime borders, which run six times the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, and it does so with two-thirds of the personnel of United States Customs and Border Protection.
The Coast Guard is planning to build 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters to replace the aging medium endurance cutters, a deal expected to cost $10.5 billion, roughly $420 million per vessel. By comparison, a Freedom-class littoral combat ship sets taxpayers back $362 million.
We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?
But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.
The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.
In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.
Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.
The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.
At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.
Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.
At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.
The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.
The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.
The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.
All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.
However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.
Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.
While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!
The 1911 pistol has been around for over 100 years. It is beloved by many for its ergonomics, accuracy and heavy-hitting .45 caliber round. In fact, some versions are still in service with the Marine Corps as the M45.
When something’s been around for so long, it’s also a safe bet that people are tinkering with its design. You can find 1911s in various calibers aside from its original .45 ACO, including 9mm NATO, 10mm Auto, and .22 long rifle.
In an article at PopularMechanics.com, Ian McCollum of ForgottenWeapons.com noted that during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services wanted something that could allow commandos and other secret agents to kill sentries quietly and at a distance.
This is actually very important because if the sentry sees you and sounds the alarm, he’s won. It doesn’t matter if he’s hit the alarm with his dying effort. That alarm could even be him dying very noisily.
The key to this was a two-part system that could be added to just about any M1911 pistol that was called “Bigot.” The rear portion was inserted through the ejection port. It had to be set up right to allow the M1911’s slide to close. Then, the piston would be screwed in. After that, a variety of darts – or even mini grenades – could be inserted for use in silently dispatching a sentry of the two-legged or four-legged variety. The darts and grenades would be fired by a .25 ACP blank.
Tests with a quickly-made reproduction were kind of iffy (only one-third of the darts broke a glass target eight feet away). It’s probably why the Bigot never saw any real action.
Still, if Buffy needed a little extra edge to dust some vamps or if 007 wants a gadget that makes for great cinematic eye candy, it’s probably a good choice. Watch the video below to hear Ian relate what we know about this nifty-looking piece!